In 2006, Hemant Mehta listed his soul for sale on eBay. He was an atheist who didn’t believe he had a soul. In exchange for the sale, he offered to go to 50 services of whichever religion the purchaser wanted. To make sure a millionaire didn’t purchase it, he said all the money would go to an atheistic cause. Jim Henderson, a pastor in Seattle was interested and won the auction. His idea was to send him to different churches, take notes on his observations and feelings and then write up an article on each one on how he felt that church either pushed him closer or further away from Christ. A publisher saw the articles and expanded it by flying him to churches all over the US. After visiting all the churches, Hemant remained an atheist, but is open to their being a god with scientific proof.
When I first heard Jim Henderson tell this story and how he wrote a book called “Jim and Casper Go To Church”, I was intrigued. As I heard the story, I thought, “There definitely is a lot we can learn from an outsider about how we reach them.” Another part of me thought, “That’s interesting, but is it right? How can you buy someone’s soul?” I read Psalm 49:7-9 that says, “Not one could give God the ransom price for the soul of another, let alone for himself. A soul’s redemption is too costly and precious for anyone to pay with earthly wealth. The price to pay is never enough to purchase eternal life for even one, to keep them out of hell” (TPT). Even though a pastor paid over $600 to Hemant, and the guy went to many churches, he remains lost.
Then I started thinking about how many people don’t list their soul on eBay, but it’s still “for sale”. In our search for significance and worth, we sell our soul looking for meaning. We try to earn our salvation rather than except the free gift that was too costly and precious for anyone but the Son of God to pay for. We’re living for “likes” and followers because we haven’t fully trusted in the worth God has assigned to us. We desire man’s approval rather than God’s, yet God has deemed you valuable enough to sacrifice everything to have a relationship with you. Your life has meaning and purpose, and anything short of giving it to God fully will result in an empty feeling of, “There has to be something more,” no matter how much success, followers or worth you get from others.
No one, but Jesus, could give a ransom for your soul. No one but Jesus can help you fill that void that you’re missing. There is something in each one of that is searching for our true identity. My pastor calls it a holy homesickness. Your soul wants to find the rest that only being at home can give. We sell our soul to things in exchange to satisfy that feeling, but it will never go away until you give your life wholly to the only one who could ever pay the price for your soul. Finding religion isn’t enough. Christianity is about a relationship between your soul and God and finding the rest that it’s looking for. The freedom isn’t found in the rituals or do’s and don’t’s. It’s only found in accepting that Jesus paid it all for you and in surrendering your will for His plan for you. Your soul has been purchased already and paid for, but you must accept it and trust in what He has done.
I work in an industry where for years we gave our customers free equipment in exchange for a contract. The problem that arose was that our customers didn’t treat the equipment very well. After losing it or breaking it, they would come back and say, “Can you give me another one?” When I would tell them this time they had to purchase it, they would get upset and say, “Just give me another free one.”
I learned during that period that people rarely value what they get for free. I remember valuing my first pair of shoes I paid for. I worked for weeks to earn enough to buy them. I was at an out of town tournament playing basketball with them. One night, someone decided to pull the fire alarm at the hotel. The first thing I grabbed to take with me outside was my shoes. I didn’t care if I lost everything else, I didn’t want to lose those.
Because of this tendency of our human nature, it’s difficult for us to value God’s grace. It is a free gift that affords us salvation. Our minds can’t comprehend how something so valuable could be free, so we often try to earn our salvation by doing things instead of trusting God’s grace. In several of his letters, Paul warns against this kind of thinking. He also warns of the mentality that says, “Since its free, I’ll just do what I want and ask for more.”
I love how in Galatians 2:21, Paul strongly says, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless” (NLT). I believe you and I have to fight every day against our minds to not treat God’s grace as meaningless. It’s something we should value highly. The cost was high even though you and I didn’t have to pay it. To treat it as meaningless or to try to earn our salvation is to devalue what Jesus did on the cross. May we ever be grateful for God’s amazing grace and treat it with the value it is worth.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
David had two sons from different wives. One son raped the sister of the other son. A couple years later, he got his revenge and killed his half brother for what he had done. David was angry about the murder so the son fled. Now David was without two sons. Over time, they both longed to be reconciled, but neither wanted to move from their position. Another son devised a plan to get his brother back. Five years after the murder, David and his son reconciled, but the relationship was never the same. As humans, we have the capacity to forgive, but not to forget so our forgiveness is often very fragile.
One of the most amazing things about God is that He doesn’t care how far away we’ve wandered from Him, He always is willing to accept us back fully. In fact, He’s on the hunt for us like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep. It doesn’t matter how lost we are or what we got tangled up in, His desire is that we return to Him. That, to me, is amazing love. We, like the Prodigal Son, try to come up with reasons why He won’t accept us back as His children, but He’s watching and waiting to put the family seal on us and bring us back into the family. He has the capacity to forgive and forget because His love for us is so deep.
Here are some Bible verses on God’s desire to bring us back to Him.
1. All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.
2 Samuel 14:14 NLT
2. So bring us back to loving you, God our Savior. Restore our hearts so that we’ll never again feel your anger rise against us.
Psalms 85:4 TPT
3. Bring us back to you, Lord! Bring us back! Restore our ancient glory.
Lamentations 5:21 GNT
4. You will preach to his people the revelation of salvation life, the cancellation of all our sins, to bring us back to God.
Luke 1:77 TPT
5. This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Most of what we do in life is performance based. When I was in school, my grades were not based on my intentions, but on the quality of the work I did. Each year at my job I have a meeting with my boss to go over a performance appraisal. We look at the work I’ve done and the impact it’s had. The more boxes I check off on that form, the greater my raise. Since we were born, others have evaluated our performance and decided our worth. It’s something that has been ingrained in us since day one. That’s why it’s often a shock to us that God doesn’t give us salvation because of our performance.
In Psalm 51, you will find one of the greatest prayers in the Bible. David had just gotten a married woman pregnant, then had her husband killed and married her to cover it up. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David regarding his sin. Instead of getting defensive or making excuses, David wept and begged God for forgiveness. In verses 16-17 he prayed, “For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance or the sacrifices I might offer to you. The fountain of your pleasure is found in the sacrifice of my shattered heart before you” (TPT).
If we were tasked with swimming from the US to the UK, some of us wouldn’t make it very far. Other might make it a few miles, but none of us would make it across. Our performance will never bridge the gap between our sin and God’s holiness. The only way to cross over is to have a repentant heart. Jesus is in the boat of salvation waiting to pick us up and take us across, but we have to understand it’s not about our performance. It’s about His grace. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. There’s nothing we can do to earn salvation. It’s a free gift that comes from confessing our sins and trusting in His kindness.
We learn about consequences from the time we are very young. As we grow up and face more of them, we begin to try to hide our actions so we don’t have to face them. Then there are times when we blame others for what we’ve done and they have to suffer the consequences for our actions. No matter how old we get, there will always be consequences for our actions. It’s part of God’s design of reaping what we sow. I’ve found that some seeds take a lot longer to harvest than others. The results of our actions can sometimes be felt years later rather than immediately.
When it comes to sin, there’s an eternal consequence that comes with it beyond just the one we get here. I remember over 20 years when Texas was about to execute its first woman on death row. She had become a Christian while in prison, and there were many people trying to keep her from being executed because of her faith. She ended up paying the price for her actions on earth, but didn’t have to suffer the eternal effects because Christ paid the price and took those consequences for her. When we accept Jesus as our savior, it doesn’t relieve us of our I’m consequences, but thank God we don’t have to pay the eternal ones.
Here are some Bible verses on Jesus taking our consequences.
1. Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ’s death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation.
Hebrews 9:27-28 MSG
2. Whoever seeks to save his life will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] will keep it [from the consequences of sin and separation from God].
LUKE 17:33 AMP
3. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin].
EPHESIANS 4:30 AMP
4. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today].
ROMANS 5:10 AMP
5. God made Jesus, who never personally sinned, experience the consequences of sin so that we could have a character that is right as God is right.
Have you ever been the hero in a situation? It feels good to be the person who came in at the right time with the right skill set. Aside from being a situational hero, we regard someone as a true hero when they risk their life to save someone else’s. When they see a person that needs to be rescued, they don’t think twice about what they need to do. When they’re asked about it after the fact, they’ll say, “I’m not a hero. I just did what needed to be done.” Stories of rescues captivate us and get our attention. I think God Out that in us because we’re in the middle of a rescue story.
Every one of us, whether we know it or not, need to be rescued from sin. Jesus saw our need and came to earth with the spirit of the rescuer in Him. He not only risked His life to save us, He paid the ultimate price so that you and I could be saved. Even though He gave His life for us, it’s still up to each one of us to decide whether or not we want to be rescued. We were born into a situation where we can’t save our selves. We must be rescued. The Rescuer made a way for us to be rescued, but again, it’s something we must choose. Jesus did what needed to be done, and He’d pay that price if it was only for you. Will you let Him be your hero?
Here are some Bible verses on being rescued by God.
1. God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it!
John 3:17 TPT
2. Grace to you and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself [as a sacrifice to atone] for our sins [to save and sanctify us] so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, in accordance with the will and purpose and plan of our God and Father– to Him be [ascribed all] the glory through the ages of the ages. Amen.
GALATIANS 1:3-5 AMP
3. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.
2 Corinthians 1:10 NLT
4. He gave himself for us, to rescue us from all wickedness and to make us a pure people who belong to him alone and are eager to do good.
Titus 2:14 GNT
5. It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”
Have you ever made the wrong assumption about something? If we’re honest, we all have. There was a guy who wanted me to hire him for sales, but he didn’t dress the part for the interview. Everyone else showed up in a suit, but this guy wasn’t even wearing a tie. When I asked questions, everyone sat up, looked me in the eye and gave confident answers. Not this guy. He slouched in his chair and barely looked up at me when answering. He seemed to lack the confidence to be in sales, but he had all the answers I was looking for. My wife suggested it was easier to train him how to present himself rather than to teach someone else the core values I was looking for. I hired him, and he was one of the best hires I ever made.
It’s easy to look at someone and make judgments about them because they don’t measure up to our expectations. That’s what happened to Jesus. He was born in the right town, but the people expected great fanfare for the Messiah. He became a great teacher, but He didn’t teach what they thought He should teach. They assumed He would fight the Romans and free Israel, but when that clearly wasn’t His plan, they assumed He wasn’t the Messiah and crucified Him. They thought they had God’s plan figured out, but their assumptions were wrong. They’re not alone.
We all make incorrect assumptions about who God is and what His plan is. One of the biggest misconceptions is that God is angry and is waiting for us to do something wrong so He can zap us. John 3:16-17 says, “For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life. “God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it!” (TPT) God didn’t send Jesus to condemn you to Hell. He was sent to reconcile you to God. He loves us so much that He didn’t conform to our expectations, but instead died in our place so that we could live eternally in His place. If you’ve made the wrong assumptions about God, Christmas is a great time, to change your mind.
This time of year, it becomes obvious that many of us don’t remember much more than the first verse of most Christmas Carols. As we lead up to Christmas, I want to explore some powerful verses in some of my favorite carols.
A few years ago, we were preparing for Christmas. I was putting gifts in boxes, then sliding them to my wife who was wrapping them. After she would wrap, she would ask who the gift was for. On one such gift, she looked at me with pen in hand expectantly. I looked at the box, smiled and said, “That one is for you!” She had been so busy wrapping that she couldn’t remember what was on the box.
That’s kind of how God snuck the gift of our savior into the world. It wasn’t a big showy presentation. It was delivered in a barn through an humble girl who was barely known. The world would expect the King of Kings to get around the clock coverage, tweets wondering what His name would be and hashtags so everyone could follow. But that’s not how God did it. He did it oppositely from the way we would have done it.
The lyrics of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” described it like this:
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
God silently sent us His gift of redemption. The path to Heaven was illuminated by a star instead of spotlights. It was announced to shepherds instead of people of social stature. Those who were looking and listening found a baby lying in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem, which wasn’t even the capital. God entered this world silently so that those who are seeking Him will find Him. Those who find Him and receive Him will have His peace live in their heart and their sins forgiven. Oh what a gift that was given in the little town of Bethlehem.
In Mark 10, there’s a man who runs up to Jesus and asks, “What do I need to do to receive eternal life?” Jesus knew his heart, so He listed off the Ten Commandments and said to obey them. The man replies back, “I’ve kept those my whole life!” Then jesus changed things up in verse 21 and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me” (GNT). The man left upset because he wasn’t willing to do that.
I’m sure you’ve heard this story a hundred times, but I want us to look at it a little differently today. One of the things I notice is that this man wanted to know what he could do to receive eternal life. We have to be careful not to think our salvation is based on anything we do. Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it.” This Man was trying to figure out what boxes needed to be checked off to get to Heaven because he wanted man’s approval and not God’s.
We live in a performance based society. If you do certain things, you get promoted and make more money. We have to be very careful to not let that infect our faith. Jesus’ response to the man was reminding him, and us, that God looks at our heart, not at our works. We cannot earn salvation or favor with God By doing certain things. He loves us because of who we are. There’s nothing you or I can do to make Him love us more or less. If you are truly thankful in your heart for what Jesus did on the cross, it will show up in how you live your life.
One of my favorite places to visit in Israel is The Garden Tomb. With all the craziness of Jerusalem going on outside of this garden, there is a bubble of peace resting over it. When you visit the tomb, there is a door instead of a stone. On the door is a sign that reads, “He is not here – For He is risen”. It’s such a great reminder that He conquered death, Hell and the grave so that you and I could be with Him one day.
It wasn’t enough that He was born and became a man. It wasn’t enough that He lived a sinless life. It wasn’t enough that He died. Yes, He needed to in order to pay the debt for our sins, but it’s His resurrection that gives us eternal life and hope. It is the cornerstone of our faith. The empty tomb represents redemption for mankind and a restored relationship with our creator. This weekend, don’t just focus on the death of Jesus. Celebrate that there is an empty tomb, and that gives us life.
Here are verses about Jesus and the resurrection.
1. David saw what God was going to do in the future, and so he spoke about the resurrection of the Messiah when he said, “He was not abandoned in the world of the dead; his body did not rot in the grave.”
Acts 2:31 GNT
2. Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) Me [as Savior] will live even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me [as Savior] will never die. Do you believe this?”
JOHN 11:25-26 AMP
3. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:16-17 NASB
4. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
2 Corinthians 5:15 MSG
5. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.”