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Practicaly Holy Blog

Helping people help others in the name of Jesus Christ

An open heart

By, Isam Itson III

Matthew 9:10-13 – And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“I am right.” That simple sentence sums up the heart of my self righteousness and sense of superiority. “They are wrong.” I use that simple sentence to justify my contempt and my sense of self importance. Those words and attitudes keep me separated from the very people Jesus has called us to bless and to serve. 

All of us who have bowed the knee to Jesus Christ know that we were sinners in need of grace. Over time as our lives become more and more defined by the habits and rhythms of the Christian life we tend to take that fact for granted. That is when we are in danger of losing focus on the fact that without God ‘s grace we are still captive to our sinful, selfish hearts. 

Many of the commands of the Law in Deuteronomy were affirmed by the warning to stay mindful that the children of Israel had been slaves in Egypt. The apostle Paul grew more mindful of the depth and severity of his own imperfection as he grew closer to God over the course of his lifetime. By the end of his life he defined himself as the “chief of all sinners”. God has been gracious to us and he calls us to be gracious to others. 

We too easily lose sight of the fact that we are all always helpless without God’s loving, wise, attentive, and powerful presence in our lives. We need God and we need each other. No one is beyond God’s reach, so no one is unworthy of our attention. We are not more holy or worthy because of anything we have done. We stand where we stand by the grace of God. Period. We add nothing to our standing with God by our good works. 

Daily, our starting point must be the grace of God in the moment. No matter how long we have been following Christ we can do nothing for the glory of God, without God’s loving, attentive, and immediate presence. The beauty of this truth is that when someone accuses us of something terrible we have done we can fearlessly say “yes, that was me.” or, “yes I did that. Please forgive me.” Even more confidently we can encourage ourselves, “Thank God for his grace.” “Thank God, that he loves me.” This is the freedom of submitting to the judgment of God. 

By letting God define us, we can confidently affirm God’s declaration of our righteousness in Jesus Christ. And when we do sin as believers and confess our sins to God, we know he forgives us. There may still be social and even legal consequences, but our relationship with God remains secure. His grace is sufficient, and nothing can separate us from the love of God for us that is in Christ Jesus. 

I believe this is the hardest truth for many followers of Christ to accept, because it is the last stronghold of our self-righteous and sinful hearts. Therefore, nothing glorifies God more than forgiving and embracing the honest sinner. It reminds us that apart from God, no matter how good we are, we still have no hope. God only works meaningfully through people who know they are hopeless and helpless without him. Just like everybody else.

In response

1.Know that everything in your life comes from God and belongs to God.

2. Therefore, meditate on the fact that God defines everything and only his opinion matters. We define nothing.

3. Never grieve over your past sins without rejoicing in God ‘s immediate and everlasting grace.

4. Be more and more quick to extend grace to those who sin against you.

Isam Itson

Practically Holy is a mentoring community dedicated to empowering people to help each other as a practical and sustainable expression of their faith in Jesus Christ. That’s what Practically Holy is all about. Pursuing our common humanity in Jesus Christ by honoring our God-given purpose and boundaries, as we follow Jesus Christ together, and help others do the same, as dedicated members of our communities, from generation to generation.


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