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He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. Isaiah 61:2 (NLT)

My son was very upset the night he called. He’d received his driver’s license just weeks earlier. He was on his way to a church youth group party, and missed a ‘speed reduced’ sign. As fate would have it, a policeman was sitting in the darkness. My son received his very first speeding ticket that night. We’d established a rule before his very first trip regarding just such a situation.

Both he and his sister were well aware that if either of them were to receive a ticket in the first year of driving their license would be ‘revoked’ by me for one week. The penalty for a second offense in that first year? Two weeks of revocation. A third offense? Three weeks. You see the pattern.

When my son called that night he tearfully explained the situation and told me he was coming home. My response may have surprised him. I told him something like this: “Why come home? You are there with your friends. Enjoy the night. We all make mistakes. It happens all the time. When you get home, I get your license. But for now put that aside and enjoy your time.” He followed my advice…and I followed my rules.

One day Jesus was teaching in the temple. He opened the scroll to the book of Isaiah and read from what we refer to as chapter 61:1-2. Something interesting happened however. Luke records it for us in Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

Did you notice anything different in what Jesus read before he sat down? He stopped just before he read the part about Gods’ judgment. Jesus only read about encouraging the weary and poor. Why did he stop at that point? Because Jesus didn’t come to judge. He’ll take care of that when he returns a second time. His first visit to planet earth was not to condemn but to bring release.

Does that mean Jesus was light on sin? Certainly not. One only has to read the Gospels to see the number of times Jesus said “Go and sin no more.” Jesus’ primary purpose in coming to earth was to encourage those who were weak.

My son learned a valuable lesson about driving 20 years ago. To the best of my knowledge that was his only speeding ticket. However, he also learned that although there is a time for judgment, there is also a time for encouragement.

We are called to comfort the mourning; to encourage the weary; to strengthen the weak while we still have time. The time of judgment is coming. The Father will execute his judgment through the Son. We are called, as was Jesus, to be encouragers.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you showed us that encouraging the weak isn’t a sign of being soft on sin, but an example of grace. Thank you for your gift. Help me to extend that grace to someone who needs it today. Amen.

In Christ we can come before God with freedom and without fear. We can do this through faith in Christ. Ephesians 3:12 (NCV)

I remember sitting in Bible Study. We were discussing the life of King David and, in particular, his affair with Bathsheba. I asked the question, why does sin have such power over us? Think of David. The man after God’s own heart. The man who had seen God move in miraculous ways. The man who defeated a lion, a bear, a giant and an angry King. All this because of his faith. What would make someone who was so close to God commit such a heinous crime? Why does sin have that kind of power over us?

A very dear, elderly sweet lady gave an embarrassed grin and answered, “Because. Sin is so much fun!”

I was taken back by her answer, as were the others. Mary (I’ll call her) was the kind of person you would expect to have been sinless her entire life. Sin being fun in her mind was the furthest thing from my mind.

She’s right of course. That’s the draw. We know the right way to think. We know what the right words to say and what words will spark an argument. For those of us who know Christ, we know the attitude to take. So why are we often so easily led astray?

Not only is sin ‘fun’ (at least at the beginning) but sin entraps us. That’s the catch. Sometimes it starts small, an attitude, a sarcastic comment or two, an off-color jest, a hug that takes just a little to long. Then, if we allow it to, sin creeps in, taking more liberty. Asking more questions. Causing more doubt. Like the serpent in the garden, the question is asked, “It God really fair taking this pleasure from me? Will it really hurt just once? Don’t I deserve this justice?

Then like a steel trap, the jaws slam shut. We’re trapped with no way out. Have you ever been in that situation? It’s like being handcuffed and being led down the hallway towards the courtroom. Waste of time? You bet. Your guilty, but…. (There will be no buts in this courtroom).

That’s sin. The longer you are in it the more the guilt weighs you down. You knew better. How did you think for a moment you wouldn’t get caught? The longer it has you enslaved the more resigned you come to it’s dominion over you. The more it attacks, the weaker your resolve to fight back. Finally you just give up. It doesn’t matter anymore.

There is only one way out of this trap. Only one way to rid yourself of the guilt once and for all. Only one way promise can return to our lives. The only way we can be free of the penalty and power of sin is Jesus. The penalty has to be paid. There is no escape from that. But Jesus paid the penalty! Because of that, regardless of what you have done. Regardless of how many times you’ve stumbled and fallen. The Grace of God through Jesus Christ allows you to have a perfect relationship with your Heavenly Father. Enjoy the freedom to fly once again. Enjoy the freedom of being afraid of God’s wrath.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I need to be reminded of your love and grace today. My thoughts, words and attitudes have entrapped me. I’m listening to the enemy’s lies. Please forgive me once again for my weakness. Thank you that because of you I am restored. Amen.

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