Does the place you live have a nickname? Or do you? Most nicknames focus on a special characteristic or highlight some aspect of the place or person who has them. But can they really be very important? Actually, one is unbelievably amazing.
Japan is known as the “Land of the Rising Sun.” Israel is the “Holy Land.” The Netherlands is the “Land of Tulips.” It’s not just countries that have nicknames, either. You may know the “Big Apple” (New York), “Sin City” (Las Vegas) or the “City of Light” (Paris). Hundreds of places are known as the “Twin Cities” – and no, I’m not going to list them!
Today’s verse says PROVE BY THE WAY YOU LIVE THAT YOU HAVE REPENTED OF YOUR SINS AND TURNED TO GOD.
Missouri’s nickname is “The Show Me State.” That fits in quite well with today’s verse. It reflects what we are called to do.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus our lives should be the proof.
When the apostle Paul was on trial answering false charges made by jealous religious leaders, his defense was in line with today’s verse. He said that everywhere he preached his message was that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and then PROVE they had changed by the good things they did.
If Paul is clear about one thing – it’s that salvation is a free gift of God. He wrote that salvation is by grace through faith, not of ourselves so that no one could boast. Over and over again Paul makes it clear that we can add nothing to our salvation. But, once we have been saved and made alive in Christ, there are LOTS of ways we PROVE BY THE WAY WE LIVE THAT WE HAVE REPENTED OF OUR SINS AND TURNED TO GOD. Salvation is by grace – PERIOD. Full stop. Can’t add a thing.
But God has created good works for us to do. And THAT takes effort, diligence, and determination. Grace doesn’t replace effort, it replaces earning our salvation. We don’t do the good works God created for us to do SO THAT we can earn our salvation. We do them BECAUSE He has given us our salvation and then called us to follow Him.
You and I are supposed to bear fruit that demonstrates our repentance. That concept of fruit is an important one. We are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – is evident in what we do. That’s good fruit! We walk in the light, and the fruit of the light is found in all we do.
PROVE BY THE WAY YOU LIVE THAT YOU HAVE REPENTED OF YOUR SINS AND TURNED TO GOD
Did you notice that this verse is focused on what you DO, not on what you DO NOT do! It’s been said that if you will focus on doing the “DO’s” of the bible you’ll be so busy you won’t have to worry about not doing the don’ts. When people defining their lives by what they DON’T do, that’s religion. People in a relationship define it by what they do! And they focus on doing the things that add value to the relationship.
What would you think if you were to ask me how my relationship with my wife is doing, and this was my answer? “Well, we didn’t fight all last week. She didn’t throw a single dish at me. I didn’t punch any holes in any walls or break any windows. There wasn’t any screaming or shouting either.” That tells you we have no relationship! That’s a horrible way to look at something. Religion will focus on things you are not supposed to do. It’s a terrible approach.
But if this is the answer, it tells you something totally different. “Well, last Sunday we took a break from the things we were working on and just hung out for a while in our room and talked about ways to bless our kids. The night before we spent time together with our neighbors, we had a great time. We took our grandson out for breakfast because he’s just graduated and we wanted to encourage him and plan a celebration.” There’s not a “don’t” on the list. It’s all relationship, time together, talking and sharing. There’s life in that list.
One more thing about nicknames. Remember when I asked if they can really be very important? It probably won’t surprise you to know that I have a special nickname for my wife, and she has one for me. I’m not telling you, because they are private. It’s a mark of our intimacy and our strong relationship. But one nickname is unbelievably amazing, and this ought to totally boggle your mind. Did you know that, if you PROVE BY THE WAY YOU LIVE THAT YOU HAVE REPENTED OF YOUR SINS AND TURNED TO GOD, Jesus is going to give YOU a special nickname that only you and He will know. It’s one of the rewards the bible talks about in the book of Revelation. When we live out our faith, we get a nickname from Jesus! That’s closeness! And it’s private, just between you and Him.
That’s a nickname you don’t want to miss.