Pathways Devotions

2020, Winter/Spring

Week 3

January 19-25

A Powerful Process

Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)


The first-century Christian lived with an eye on the coming Kingdom. More than that, he or she lived with an eye on the new creation taking place within. It was a marvel to behold: a sinful heart taking on the likeness of Jesus.

True, Paul had to remind his readers that this was happening. Some were ignorant of the process, sometimes even of the goal. Some, like a lot of Christians today, accepted the Resurrection as a future reality but not as a present dynamic. They forgot what Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 1:19-20—that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that is working in those who believe. The magnificent force that overcame death is at work in the hearts and minds of those for whom He died.

We can’t take that for granted. The Jesus we read fondly of in Scripture really is alive, and He makes His home within us. We may not be aware of His presence, but that’s our fault, not His. When we gather as a corporate body in our churches, He is there, bringing all parts of the whole together. When we are alone in our moments of crisis and need, He is there, reminding us, if we will let Him, that sealed tombs are no match for His creative power. Sinful hearts, too, are no match for Him. Whatever frustrates us in this world, He has overcome it. We can live with that blessing not only in the future physical resurrection but also in the present spiritual one.


We need to live with an eye on the coming Kingdom. There are corporate elements of that; God is building His church for a glorious purpose. But there are individual elements as well. Deep within your soul, His Spirit has rebirthed you. He is growing you to maturity, and you are being shaped into His image. One day, you will look just like Him. It’s inevitable.

That’s going to happen whether we’re aware of the process or not, but what a blessing to be aware of it! Examine what He’s doing deep within you, and participate in it wholeheartedly. It’s what you were made for.

Week 4

January 26 – February 1

A Permanent Support

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. (1 Corinthians 15:48)


Our lives are grounded in eternity. That realization made the early church bold and adventurous. It kept them from cowering at the hands of the Romans and the roar of the lions. It kept them from running from Pharisaical zealots and savage stonings. It motivated Paul, who had been dragged out of one city and left for dead, to get back up and walk into the same city with a powerful message (Acts 14:8-20). It inspired Stephen to proclaim the risen Jesus with his dying breath (Acts 7:56). It made the church an in-your-face contradiction to the reigning culture.

Oh, for such boldness today! The power of eternity will not make us aggressively offensive, as some misguided Christians become, but it will cause us to be unmoved in the face of the world’s fickle opinions. It will give us perspective.

Think about the influence of an eternal perspective. It won’t let us write off relationships as insignificant; they have “forever” implications. It won’t let us be indifferent to our responsibilities; we will be accountable in judgment. It won’t let us interpret our trials as defeats; they never last as long as our lives do. It won’t let us spend our resources of time, money, and talents frivolously; they are opportunities for everlasting investments. And, perhaps most profoundly, it won’t let us live in fear of death; the wages of sin have been dealt with, and we have nothing to fear when this body wastes away. We are more secure than the mountains and the seas. Our feet are planted on imperishable ground.


Knowing that we are grounded in eternity—really knowing it deep down inside—will transform a neurotic, fearful soul into a powerful, courageous servant of the most high King. It will drive us to live our adventures with meaning and purpose.

Learn to live with the perspective of eternity. Be faithful in this world, but crave the day this temporal dwelling is shed for heavenly glory. That craving ought to shape everything we do. The power of an eternal perspective changes lives—beginning with our own.

Week 5

February 2-8

An Urgent Message

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)


Our world is dying. Many of its citizens know that; others live under wild illusions. The existentialists of past ages, for all their hopelessness, at least got one thing right: If God isn’t real, life is pointless. You live and you die. And no one, in the long run, remembers you.

That’s the hopelessness that shapes a lot of societies today. Cultures cut loose from spiritual absolutes are drifting aimlessly, pointlessly toward death and meaninglessness. The world’s citizens try to make the best of it, much like the band on the Titanic that kept playing even as the ship began to sink. Those who do not know Christ invest their lives in pleasure, relationships, work, status, possessions, and a host of other things, none of which lasts. But they give the illusion of meaning, and sometimes illusions are better than nothing. At least in the minds of those who hold them.

But Christianity offers a Kingdom without illusions. We have meaning, purpose, truth, and an ultimately worthwhile Person to point to. Our world clutches its deceptive trinkets—false philosophies and pursuits—because it’s afraid to own up to the sin that separated us from the Creator. But owning up leads to immense blessing, and we’re the only ones who can point the way. The world needs the knowledge of the Resurrection more than it knows.


That’s why Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into the world and be witnesses. Witnesses of what? Of a once-dead Savior standing before them with holes in His hands and a promise in His mouth. That alone—that above every word this world has ever uttered—is the meaning to life.

You have a holy purpose. By accepting the risen Savior, you accepted the risen Savior’s mission. Perhaps you did not know that at the time, but now you do. A desperate, blind world waits for truth. Be a witness of the Resurrection, which pulls us from this sinking ship into the regenesis. The world needs that knowledge. It is dying without it.

Week 6

February 9-15

Intimate Union

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)


For centuries, God’s people watched the Spirit work. They saw the Spirit lead through the wilderness, inspire the prophets, fill the Temple, and empower the kings. Still, He was a phenomenon, not a way of life. No, the prescribed way of life was the law of Moses. And though the law was good and complete in itself, it never provided a complete relationship.

That changed after Jesus ascended. The law that was written on stone tablets became the law that was written on hearts. And the Writer was more than an abstract principle; He was God Himself, the Spirit from eternity past, the very Breath of the Almighty. Just as God exhaled into the first Adam, He breathed Himself into those who have faith in the second Adam—Jesus. Flesh once made from dust and destined to return to dust became a holy habitation; God came to live in very human, very earthen vessels. The Temple of stone became a temple of flesh—organic, dynamic flesh.

Jesus is the prototype, of course. He was the very definition of the temple of God on earth. But after His ascension, what temple was left? The one on Mount Zion, with its tattered veil and its spiritually blind guardians? No, not good enough. God had ordained a better dwelling: us.


We had no idea that all past tabernacles and temples were pictures of Jesus and blueprints for the human heart, did we? Both nervous and infatuated, we once wondered if the God of our dreams would pay us any attention, only to find that He now approaches us in an intimate union beyond anything human flesh has ever experienced. It’s the greatest romance the world has ever known.

The question for us today is whether we’re even aware of the intimacy. Has the marriage grown comfortable—maybe even distant? If so, go back to the beginning. It’s astounding that God dwells within. Rekindle the flame, and let Him burn.

Week 7

February 16-22

Destined Lovers

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:18)


Our Bridegroom was never after a slavishly obedient bride to begin with. Sure, He loves it when His people conform to His standards, but no groom with even an ounce of passion wants a cold, calculated servant for a bride. No, God’s purpose from the very beginning was a people for Himself—who lived, breathed, and loved in sync with Him. He wanted hearts that beat His rhythms, companions with whom to share His secrets and His deep longings. Rules never accomplish that; only freely given love and intimacy do.

That’s why the law of Moses is not at the end of the Bible. It’s a start, a lesson in the futility of human sin. It existed, according to Paul, to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). It saved no one; it only showed us our need for a Savior.

The fulfillment of the plan, the early Christians realized, was the staggering truth that God made us not to know Him through obedience, but to obey through knowing Him. The romantic embrace from our holy Savior comes first; then our character can be transformed to look like Him. And the evidence of the romantic embrace came in Acts 2, as the wind blew and the fire fell. The Holy Spirit claimed His true love. We will never be the same.


It’s a genuine shame that many Christians have turned this holy intimacy back into religion. Perhaps it’s too close, too personal. Religion is easier. It keeps God at arm’s length. But if God were satisfied with arm’s length, Jesus never would have died and the Holy Spirit never would have descended. He made us to crave intimate union, and then He offered Himself for the craving. Religion isn’t enough. An exhilarating, thriving marriage is.

If that’s not your experience with God, something needs to change. Draw close to Him in complete trust and desperate love, and He will draw close to you in holy passion. This union is your fulfillment, planned from eternity past. Embrace it by letting His Spirit embrace you.

Week 8

February 23-29

The Deeper Passion

Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16)


You will follow your passions. Yes, there may be times when you compel yourself to say, “Not my will but Thine,” but the sustaining drive of your life will be somewhat in line with the deepest loves you treasure. So when the Bible tells us to live by the Spirit and not by the desires of the sinful nature, it is also implying an important relationship issue: our love for the Spirit must run deeper than our love for the world.

The contrast really is that simple. We have a constant choice: whether we are going to be in love with God or with the world, the flesh, or the sins we once held dear. That should be an easy choice—after all, God is far more worthy than any other—but our suitors know just how to dazzle us with empty words and false promises. Sometimes we’re far too easy prey. And when we are, we gratify the desires of the sinful nature, just as Paul warns. We do so not because we have evil intent, but because we’ve misdirected our love. We’ve let the intimacy with the Spirit grow cold and turned our eyes in other directions.

Turn back. The blessing of living by the Spirit—basking in His love and returning His embrace—is far greater than anything the sinful nature can deliver.


You may have thought of your life as a series of moral choices, some pleasing to God, others not. While that’s true—there are moral choices that God has very strong opinions about—that’s not to be our focus. Our focus is not to be on banishing sin from our lives but on falling deeply, passionately in love with the One who redeemed us and has made a home with us. If we get that right, the sinful nature doesn’t stand a chance.

Cultivate love. Develop your relationship with the Spirit. Spend time with Him, praise Him, ask Him to have His way with you. The closer you get to Him, the further from sin you will be.

Week 9

March 1-7

Love Shows

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)


The Spirit lives within us, but He has an external agenda. From the warm fire of fellowship in our hearts, He expects to shine. The description in Galatians 5:22-23 about the fruit of the Spirit is not about productivity. It’s about character. Furthermore, it’s not simply about attitudes; it’s about Him.

Have you noticed that? These are not traits to cultivate. This is not a description of what we are supposed to look like, per se. This is a description of what He already does look like. The fruit of the Spirit is supposed to come forth from us because the Spirit comes forth from us. The New Testament is not a covenant to reform fallen flesh; it’s a covenant to plant the life of God in His people. Paul didn’t mean to provide us a to-do list here. This verse is not about who we strive to be, but about who we display.

That’s why when we ask God to help us with patience, joy, self-control, or any other fruit, we’re a little off base. He doesn’t mind so much; He applauds the desire. But He would prefer that we not partition His Spirit into distinguishable traits to acquire. His desire is that His life in us be visible. When we ask, we simply need to ask that He magnify Himself in us and help us to take a backseat to His leadership. He doesn’t want us to focus on our improving character, but on His constant virtue.


Scripture provides this list of fruit, not so much so we can check off the areas in which we need improvement, but primarily to indicate whether our fellowship with the Spirit is as deep as it ought to be. If we find ourselves lacking in love, for example, we need not seek more love. We should rather seek more closeness to the Spirit of love. Our insufficiencies should never lead us in search of more fruit, but in search of the fruitful One. In His arms, under His leadership, and given over to His influence, the fruit will come.

Week 10

March 8-14

What the World Needs Now

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious . . . those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19, 21)


Galatians 5:19-21 contains a frightening list of sinfulness; it’s even more frightening when we realize that it describes our natural selves, at least in spirit if not in behavior. We have all been participants in fallen humanity at its ugliest and can only bear good fruit by having a fruitful Spirit within us. The tragedy for our world, however, is that the list of sinfulness still describes us today. Fallenness is the natural state of unredeemed humanity, which drives the world we live in.

That’s why the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is so remarkable. It’s countercultural. The early Christians who discovered this amazing presence of God within them were separated farther and farther from the corruption around them. They became a pariah to some, a witness to others. Either way, they were a statement that fallen flesh doesn’t have to reign. There is an incredibly worthwhile alternative.

That’s the role we play. That’s what Jesus meant when He told His disciples they were lights in the world and the salt of the earth. Though the fruits of the Spirit do in fact make us a pariah to some and a witness to others, in both cases we are a statement that fallen flesh doesn’t have to rule. Our culture can do with that knowledge whatever it wants: love us, hate us, try to explain us. Regardless, it needs to know: life in the Spirit of God is an alternative.


Displaying the Spirit is one of our primary functions in this world. Our job is to get self out of the way and let Him shine. Why? Because a dying world needs to know that its corruptions are not the norm. Our friends and relatives need to see that the ways of the world are not the ways of God. The status quo of the human rebellion simply must be challenged.

If you needed a mission in life, this is it: to be countercultural to the world, to be the evidence of your holy Companion, and to display a love the world needs to see.

Week 11

March 15-21

The Intrusive God

They were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. (Acts 13:45)


For years, Israel had heard the stories: God bringing His people out of Egypt, guiding them to the land of promise, pruning the nation through kings and prophets, disciplining them for rebellion, and lavishing upon them promises of restoration in the last days. And what promises! These were no modest hopes, not by any means. They were predictions of ultimate fulfillment and of eternal peace and prosperity. Israel, it surely seemed, would be magnificently blessed.

That’s the context that Jesus’ ascent and the Holy Spirit’s descent burst into. The amazing things God was doing were clear indications that the fulfillment of promises past had come. The prophets were being proven right. The Kingdom was arriving in its glory.

The problem was that the Kingdom didn’t look like the kingdom many people expected. Some marveled at the intricate, awesome plan of God, but others preferred the status quo. They rejected the message of Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, as elsewhere, because their personal world was too well constructed to be modified, even by the Almighty. It’s a curious phenomenon of strictly religious folks: God can be honored in the past and hoped for in the future, but He can never, never be allowed to intrude in the present.


It’s a tragic shame when the status quo is more relevant to us than the work of God, but that’s often the case. We get complacent, and as much as we complain about our circumstances and hope for better, we just can’t handle the surprising intrusions of our God.

But we must. His intrusions are fulfillment of promises past and the purpose we seek. We should always open up to His plan, whether it fits our expectations or not. We serve a God who loves surprises. He surprised first-century Jews with the Messiah and the Spirit. He surprised the early church with miracles and missions, and He will surprise us with the blessings we crave today. When you least expect Him, expect Him.

Week 12

March 15-21

The Faithful God

What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us. (Acts 13:32-33)


Paul’s sermon in Antioch, recorded in Acts 13, was compelling. Many Jews were intrigued by it, and many Gentiles rejoiced over it. It shows God’s work throughout the ages, unifying a strange, varied history under one overarching purpose: salvation through Messiah Jesus.

For us, Paul’s sermon is like an aerial photo taken at thirty thousand feet. It shows the whole landscape, including the glorious peaks of salvation. Even more than that, it demonstrates the abiding faithfulness of God—from the choosing of Abraham to the resurrection of the Savior. Every step of the way, this God has watched over His people, cultivated their loyalties, purged their rebellions and sins, and secured their redemption. God had invested centuries in His plan. He never abandoned it or even diverged from it. He had a remedy for the Fall from day one. And when the Holy Spirit had come, believers knew just how perfect the remedy was.


That should be profoundly comforting to those of us who wonder if God is still with us. Not that we doubt His faithfulness in principle, of course. No, our doubts are more subtle. We wonder if He is faithful to us right now, in our current circumstances—in our nation, in our families, in the details of our daily lives. We know He would never abandon His plan for the world, but we suspect He might abandon His plan for us. We appreciate the view from thirty thousand feet, but we really want Him at ground zero in our lives.

God’s story in the Bible is not simply told for the sake of Israel or the church. It is told in order to reveal His character. And one undeniable observation from the story in Scripture is that God is faithful, both in master plans and individual lives. Always has been, always will be. Remember that when you doubt. There has been a remedy from day one, and it is perfect.

Week 13

March 22-28

The God of Promise

He has fulfilled for us. . . . As it is written. (Acts 13:33)


Fulfillment. Everyone wants it; no one claims to have obtained it. The desire is written deep within our hearts, and it drives us all our lives. Underlying all the things we do, all the decisions we make, is this craving to be whole—fully satisfied and at peace. We want to be complete.

There’s a significant answer for us in the writings of the early church. Over and over again, the apostles’ letters point to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Scriptures. From Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost to the voices of angels in Revelation, the gospel is described as the completion of all God had ordained. Jesus rose “according to the Scriptures.” The Kingdom is coming because “it is written” that it would. Nearly every aspect of the new creation is identified with some inscription penned centuries before. Why? Because, as Jesus had once said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

What’s the connection between the prophecies of Scripture and our craving for fulfillment? Simply that God has demonstrated Himself trustworthy. If He spoke it, it will happen. That means that when the Bible says that no one can comprehend what God has planned for us, it’s true. When it says that we will be raised into everlasting glory, it’s true. When it says that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, or that we can legitimately rejoice in all things, it’s true. Whatever Scripture has promised you, it cannot be undone. The Word is inviolable.


There’s a close connection between the fulfillment of the prophecies about Jesus and the fulfillment of the promises given to you. If God has been reliable in one—and the witness of the apostles is that He most certainly has—then He will be reliable in the other. It’s inconceivable that God would promise His people, both collectively and individually, His fulfillment and then not deliver it. When His Word speaks, it speaks truth. The God who has relentlessly pursued His plan for Israel and the church will relentlessly pursue His plan for you.

Week 14

March 29 – April 4

The Confidence of the Believer

They were glad and honored the word of the Lord. (Acts 13:48)


Knowing that God’s plan is inviolable is not only incredibly comforting, it’s also the ultimate source of confidence. There is nothing accidental about our salvation, and there’s nothing accidental about the way God is working it out in our lives. The zeal of the Lord accomplished God’s plan for the ages, and His Spirit applies it individually. We are His because He claimed us for Himself.

That means that we stand on very solid ground. We don’t have to live in fear and doubt, anxiously wondering whether we’re walking in His will. We don’t need to stress over every little setback, hoping it didn’t get us off His perfect path. The sovereign God of all history is the sovereign God of our day—today. Knowing that means the difference between insecurity and godly confidence.

Think about that. The God who promised Abraham many descendants—and delivered—is the God who promises you ultimate meaning in your life. The God who promised David an everlasting Kingdom has promised you an inheritance in it. The God who promised to raise Jesus from the dead promised to raise you from the dead. His track record is impeccable and inspiring. His sovereignty has never let anyone down, and we can be assured we won’t be the first.


Do you live in such confidence, or are you insecure with God? Deliberate sin may have set you in the latter frame of mind, but even that, after repentance and restoration, is redeemed by God for His purposes. The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is that we who believe in the gospel are in sync with God’s underlying design for history, and that we are safely guided by the same hand that guided Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Paul, and especially Jesus.

If you live a nervous life, relax. God’s faithfulness applies to His Word, and it applies to you. His plan for the ages is yours. Rest in it always.

Week 15

April 5-11

The Direction of History

The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. (Acts 13:49)


The world doesn’t understand the direction of history. Many cultures believe we live in cycles, repeating history over and over again. Others have embraced randomness, thinking that we wander aimlessly through this universe, from one ignorant generation of evolution to the next. The Bible is believed by many cultural historians to be the first record of a people who believed history was moving in one direction and had a point. We know the reason for that, of course: the Bible was inspired by a God with a plan.

It’s a remarkable testimony: fulfilled prophecies, consistent themes over multiple writers and vastly different centuries, and a Messiah who unifies the Word from beginning to end. It’s unique in the world of religious literature, and we’re unique in the world of religious consciousness. We see history as purposeful and meaningful, and we refuse to drift through life. A world that has given up hope needs to see that as often as it can.

Just as the early church preached that it was the fulfillment of God’s plan, the church of our generation needs to preach the same. We alone can provide order to random cultures and absolutes to relative societies. We alone have been entrusted with the truth of the ages, as Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17). We alone are commissioned to point to judgment as a coming reality. Our God has called us to be participants in His plan, and His plan involves reaching an aimless world. We who know the target of history have a holy responsibility to point to it.


The remarkable sense of fulfillment felt by the early church needs to be ours as well. Our Savior, the Bible tells us, is the apex of history, and His Cross stands as the central event. We are assured that every knee will eventually bow to Him, and every tongue—even the most blasphemous—will eventually confess Him as Lord. Our world hungers for the purpose we’ve realized, and there’s only one appropriate response for us: feed them.

Week 16

April 12-18

Amazing Grace

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)


There’s scarcely a better summary of the plan of salvation than Ephesians 2:1-10. Not only is it the spiritual history of mankind, it’s also ours individually. We were dead in our sins—thoroughly dead—and God rescued us. We were, as Paul tells us, without hope in this world (Ephesians 2:12), completely helpless and unaware of the way out of our condition.

And what a dreadful condition it was. Paul’s assessment of the human condition is nothing like the “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophies of our culture’s gospel of tolerance. In fact, he’s terribly blunt in his political incorrectness: we were compatible with the spirits of disobedience, living in our lusts and deserving of God’s wrath. We were destined for judgment if God had not intervened. We may not like to admit that, and we may shudder at the harshness of the idea, but we cannot deny that this is a soundly biblical assessment. Humanity, in its rebellion, was completely, utterly lost.

This was the gradual realization of the early Christians. In light of the Cross, the human condition could not be sugarcoated. One does not observe the agony of Jesus, interpret it as a payment for sin, and then minimize the sin. If a bloody, beaten Savior hanging from a crude, splintery stake is a picture of judgment, then sin under judgment must have been enormous, catastrophic, and deadly.


Why is that important to know? Because we don’t understand grace until we understand sin. Most early Christians had been content to follow Jewish law or Greco-Roman deities, not knowing their desperate condition. But the Cross was not only a statement of God’s great mercy; it was also a statement of how much that mercy was needed.

The Christian who remembers the dreadful nature of sin is the Christian who understands the magnitude of grace. Only then are we equipped to live, breathe, and share the gospel of salvation. Meditate on your salvation, and let the mercy of God sink in.

Week 17

April 19-25

Forever Mercy

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith. (Ephesians 2:8)


The first Christians could hardly get their minds around the gospel of grace. We have trouble with it ourselves, but at least we’ve had centuries of preaching and theology to lay it out for us. Not so in first-century Ephesus, or anywhere else the gospel was taught. That’s why Paul spent so much time in many of his letters explaining that mercy was God’s way from the beginning. In the relationship between God and people, grace has always been the key.

Think about it: God could rightly have taken Adam’s and Eve’s lives on the day of the first rebellion or flooded the world without saving Noah’s family. He could have never called Abraham, never rescued Israel from Egypt, never established David’s kingdom, and never promised a Messiah. He could have let the law render judgment on our stubborn ways, never hanging His Son as a sacrifice. The wages of sin was death, even from the beginning. Yet God let us live.

When that realization dawned on the first Christians—that our sin was so bad that it deserved the judgment so nauseatingly visible on the cross—it became the unquenchable inspiration of martyrs and missionaries. Christians were so convinced of the advent of the Kingdom of God that they counted their lives in the kingdom of this world as a temporary bother. Many in the early church saw the magnificent grace of the gospel and abandoned all self-righteousness, self-dependence, and self-will. Nothing else mattered.


That’s the will of God for all of us. The grace that underlies our salvation is humbling and precious. It is the way God has always operated with His people, in every age. Grace through faith saves. Nothing else ever has.

If grace has always been God’s modus operandi with His people, and we are His representatives on this earth, what does that say about our attitude toward others? It should be gracious. Always. Nothing else reflects His character like a heart of mercy.

Week 18

April 26 – May 2

Deep Foundations

God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. (Ephesians 2:4-5)


Understanding God’s love and mercy is the foundation of the Christian life. If we don’t have that down, we aren’t going to get the rest of it right. Even so, this love and mercy are often the things we distort most easily. We simply can’t believe God would love us so much, because we know we’re not worthy of such love. And yet that’s what mercy is all about—undeserved love. We find that the most critical truth of Christianity is the hardest to sink in.

Why do we have such a hard time basing our lives on absolute mercy? Because it’s foreign to us; we don’t operate that way. We don’t forgive people easily while they are still in a state of hostility toward us. We don’t make the first move to extend grace; we wait for an apology or a sign of regret. We don’t love our enemies and go out of our way to embrace strangers. We don’t cut people much slack.

But we serve a God who had done all of that. Not only did He cut us a lot of slack, He made us sons and daughters, heirs of His eternal wealth. We struggle to accept such lavish love because we’ve never seen it before. It’s simply amazing.


If we do let His mercy sink in, however—if we ever can let it be the unshakable foundation of our lives—it has incredible power to transform us. It makes us secure enough to extend love to offensive people, it keeps us from the tendency to act out of guilt, and it connects us with the heart of the God who is really there, not the God we think we imagine.

Do not try to build a Christian life on anything but this. Every motivation, every impulse, every attitude ought to spring from an awareness that we are irrevocably loved and forgiven by a magnanimous, merciful God. That foundation is the only one that can calm our fears, relieve our worries, and allow us to live life in perfect joy and peace.