Illuminate is a series of devotionals for those, like me, enjoy the simplistic, yet not simplified Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are each intending to highlight an essential, freeing element of this so great a salvation.
“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” – John 16:8-9
What do you think of when you think ‘of’ sin? Does our mind not race towards, if we let it, acts of folly or evil? If we spent too much time asking ourselves this question, we’d be in danger ourselves of what many of us consider to ‘be’ sin as our mind could wander safe from shore.
Our experience tells us that when we violate a good rule, or even one we didn’t agree with so long as it was authoritative, that sin is breaking a command. We’d be right in that assumption as scripture itself gives an answer to this, at least in part, when it simply states:
“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4
Yet, in the Gospel message, it was exactly because of sin which was revealed perfectly by God’s Law, that Christ came (Gal 3:24). He came for the lawless, the sinner. He came for those under the Law (the Jew) and those without even the hope of the Law and the Old Covenant (the Gentile).
Regardless of being a Jew, or a Gentile, obedience to commands, even good ones, lead nowhere fast in the heart of God’s new covenant with us. That’s actually a really good thing!
As it is stated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”
In fact, Paul takes it even a step further in his letter to the Galations that everyone leaning on outward obedience for righteousness has inadvertently cursed themselves (Gal 3:10). Why? Because the kind of righteousness, the kind of justification, the kind of grace and favor God intends to bestow upon mankind is not one that can be earned.
The love of God is not a commodity to be bought nor earned.
It was offered in a Person, and you know who that is! Jesus perfect life lived, and perfect death sacrificed as the atoning lamb of God is our gift.
It is freely offered out of the benevolent perfect heart of the Father, and freely received through one means, and one means only – faith.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
In our opening scripture, Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom He would send to His disciples after His ascension. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.
He then elaborates on what this actually means, or the origin of this ‘sin’. He doesn’t say the Holy Spirit will roam the earth convicting law breakers, but rather those that are unbelieving. He’s not convicting robbers in their robbing, or adulterers in their escapades. Obviously those making selfish decisions, if they still have the sensitivity of a conscience, will feel poorly for their actions in time.
The Holy Spirit however is not primarily concerned with convicting actions, but faith, or the lack thereof. He, the Holy Spirit, is convicting the world concerning their unbelief.
Isn’t that interesting? Why is unbelief so critical to the 3rd Person of the Trinity?
The entire world is broken, lawless, lost. We’re already sinners. All have sinned. All have therefor died and without hope in the world (Rom 5:12). This is the Christian worldview according to the Gospel message. Good news comes only after the bad news, that is to say, the truth.
The only hope for humanity is a new covenant, a new relationship, established on new grounds. No longer does God strive with man within the construct of obedience and disobedience. The favor, the blessing of God, the forgiveness and reconciliation offered in the Gospel is one grounded on believing the promise of God in Christ, or not.
We come to God, and He comes to us, only through faith in Jesus. It’s no longer about human effort, but Christ’s Righteousness. We’re no longer slaves to the law, but Christ, who came under the Law for us, redeemed us from it (Gal 4:5, Rom 7:14). We are now sons and daughters through faith (Gal 3:26, 2 Cor 6:18).
Believing, trusting, surrendering to, putting our faith in Jesus as the incarnate, sufficient sacrifice is what God is looking for as the Gospel goes out to the nations. The Holy Spirit both empowering this message as it’s proclaimed, and convicting hearts to respond as it reaches the ear of the imprisoned heart.
If you confess with your mouth and BELIEVE in your heart… Rom 10:9
BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved… Acts 16:31
Jesus, when talking with Nicodemus, makes this affirming statement:
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18
So what is sin? Is it not, at the heart of it all, a rejection of the coming Son?
To name various lawless or evil acts simply will not do. Sin is the result of lacking Jesus Christ. It’s to reject the Savior who died for us. Actionable ‘sins’ in the flesh are nothing more than fruit stemming from the root of unbelief. The real cause of all outward sin is an unbelieving, and therefor unregenerate heart. Humanity’s actions, no matter how noble and just, if flowing from a heart of unbelief, is sin.
Sin is devastating in effect. Sin is real. Yet to eradicate it’s deathly work we must surrender to God’s remedy – faith.
“..consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Rom 6:11
To fight sin through morality and restrained discipline alone is vanity. We experience freedom through the gates of belief in Christ and His power!
If we reject Jesus, we stand utterly and perfectly condemned. To suggest that unbelievers duty is to reform their life, their morality, and stop ‘sinning’ in action is to circumvent the Gospel message. There’s nothing pleasing to God if the Son is rejected as the sole means of grace.
Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.
Did you hear that? The sole means of grace? This is where Christianity historically wrestles. We want to receive the grace in Christ, but package it with a holy piety as if they are a combination requirement and not simply the out-flowing result.
I believe, scripture teaches that unbelief is the primary sin and so the root cause of our sin. Conversely, I believe that the gift of faith is the primary, root cause of our Righteousness. Without faith, no man is Righteous (Rom 3:22). With faith, no longer are we sinners. We will fall, we will fail, but our covenant secured relationship with the Father is based on Christ’s merits alone. To believe this, is to know freedom Christ intended (John 8:32, Gal 5:1).
From the fount of our faith in Jesus Christ flows our life’s fruit. From the fount of unbelief comes the works of the flesh. Can a believing Christian sin? Of course. We by no means claim moral superiority, we claim Christ, and we want to grow in His likeness. Can an unbeliever be Righteous? Not a chance.
The Gospel message is great news to those who recognize their sin and embrace Jesus as their Righteousness. It’s terrible news for those who forego the path of grace in exchange for anything else.
Illuminate our hearts Lord Jesus Christ with the treasures within your great Gospel!
As we start to focus our attention on the Russian & Ukrainian speaking world for our new missions program this fall, I’m believing God, asking Him for a few more English speaking students.
I’ve begun experimenting with Instagram and Facebook promotion tools. It lets you target ages and areas of user interest like “Jesus” and “Short-Term Missions” – I’m doing a 1 week small budget test.
Join with me in prayer as we cast these nets – we need to tell our story – if more young hearts knew of the opportunity and the school this fall, I think we’d have a deluge of applicants. I know they are out there – thus the idea for the video above. Outside of Minsk, nobody knows about the college or this new program.
Yet, with any of our efforts, it’s ultimately God who draws the heart and even divinely connects us on our journey. He guided me to Christ for the Nations in Dallas as a 17yr old in a remote Canadian country town. It was a magazine that caught my attention at that time on the floor bed of a friends car – and like that magazine, I’m praying God uses our social media efforts to connect us to even one or two more hearts for this journey in the fall.
Pray with us, and for those hearts out there responding to His call, and saying “Yes” to Jesus.
We ultimately pray and entrust both the course and the students that will come to Jesus.
Brent did a good job with the voice over on the video! Took us so many takes, he is such a funny dude.
Bruce & Deb
This past week Deb and spent a week in Celebration, Florida with our 2 littlest girls, visiting Deb’s parents. This past season, her dad has been recovering from surgery and a victory over cancer.
It was several years since has been with her parents and siblings. They visited Disney together, which is right next door, and I was able to get some quiet and write curriculum. My head and heart is full as God continues to bless, connect and urges us towards the fall and a new chapter.
One of the highlights for everyone was the pure, joyful, unbelief of Abigail when she saw Disney mountain. The innocence engulfed in imagination. I wasn’t there, but the grandparents enjoyed the moment, and softy Neil got choked up.
I think as believers, we are moved by imagery that points us forward to a day when we will fix our eyes on the substance of our faith – something and someone greater than our wildest dreams.
Thankful for the time there, and for my parents in Canada as well for watching the rest of the crew (and all the family that also put my boys to work as well!).
In other family news, Brent and Broderic have been working on the farm. Broderic is getting ready to head to London, Ontario for custom harvesting peas. He is praying about returning to Ukraine, or rather Minsk in the fall for continued studies with our program. He’d be a delight to have, but we encourage him ultimately to pursue what God is forming in His heart. Are these arrows supposed to fly back? I hope some of them do! 🙂
Speaking of arrows, our spitfire Bronwyn was blessed with work this summer at Life Center, and has been putting in many hours cleaning, stuffing envelopes and whatever else the staff of +40 need.
The Church is hosting a Worship Conference this weekend, some folks from Bethel and several other musicians – she’ll be in her glory.. if she’s not cleaning and serving behind the scenes. We’re so thankful for the Stocks, pastors of the church and parents of Deb’s brother’s wife.. say that 5 times fast – for giving her this opportunity and legal way to earn some US cash. She’ll be heading to Minsk as well for fall YFM.
We have 9 days left before we pack up, fly back to Ukraine. We hit the ground running with a crew of student interns for July/August – we have several new folks coming to serve alongside our students, and pour themselves and the love of God in their journey. Please pray for this, we are asking God to give us a refreshing atmosphere of grace, love, community and places where the Holy Spirit can speak and grow us all.
God has been connecting, speaking, I want to write more, but I will leave this blog post as a family update and bid you all adieu! I do want to mention however that we are still accepting applications for YFM (english speaking), next month we begin recruiting for Russian/Ukrainian speaking. If you know any youth that might be interested in our missions course, it’s $3,500, all inclusive (except ticket) and includes:
- Fall Lecture Phase (many international speakers coming!!)
- Spring Mission Phase
- A lot of Coffee.
Send young people here for more – click here
We are needing some sponsors to help bless financially those students who are very poor, that have passion for Christ but no way to raise the funds – even $50 is a huge step forward – click here
We’ve received already 4 pledges for the full scholarship (named after the CFN Minsk late founder Dave Brunk), so that is a huge start!
Our first worship album, called, “Immerse” (in Russian) is almost finished, will release for free to Russian speaking world for free. It’s sounding amazing, when it comes out help us by purchasing it in iTunes – you won’t understand it, but it will bless you!
For a sample visit our Mir Music page – click here
Missing our Ukrainian & Belorussian family, thankful for those that hold the rope on this side of the pond, we love you!
Bruce & Deb
We have begun a campaign to help Ukrainian and Russian speaking students attend YFM this fall. If you would like to learn how to get involved, please click here to our most recent private email to supporters.
Also, we’ve created a special page that outlines additional information for sponsors on our Mir Website and a place to give online (at any level, every dollar counts!):
Thank you in advance for your generosity and for investing with us in the next generation!
Bruce & Deb