NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL

(Matthew 26:39)  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus’ prayer, like everything he spoke, is full of insight into who he is, and what he wants us to be.  He is wholly human.  He suffered like we would if we were facing an immanent and horrible death.  I wonder if I could, under those circumstances, finish my prayer with, “Yet not as I will, but as you will. 

The thought came up that Jesus is also wholly God giving me an excuse why I might not be so trusting.  Then I remembered Abraham and Isaac.  In Genesis chapter 22 we have the story of God testing Abraham.  Verses 1 and 2: Some time later God tested Abraham.  He said to him, “Abraham!”  “Here I am,” he replied.  “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 

Abraham then demonstrates his trust in God by carrying out God’s command.  The story climaxes just as Abraham raised the knife to end his son’s life. God stopped him, and provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac.

Abraham was willing to say, “Not as I will, but as you will.”  And Abraham was wholly human.  So, I have no excuse.  Jesus wants me to trust God, my Father, in all things.  Can I do it?  I hope so.  I have the provision of his Holly Spirit living in me.  I‘m determined; I will do it!  Help me Lord!  Not as I will, but as you will.

HEIRS OF GOD

(Romans 8:14-17) For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about you adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I know that what The Apostle Paul is saying in these verses is true, because I believe the Bible is true, but I have trouble projecting what this will actually mean.  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”  It is too glorious to imagine.  However,  maybe it’s good that I don’t fully comprehend all that God has planned for his children.  Can you envision me walking down the street all puffed up with the knowledge that I’m a co-heir with Christ.  I’d be annoying and useless.

So then comes the humbling part, God’s wonderful plans and promises are available to us because Jesus suffered and died to redeem us.  We were dead in our sins, and not co-heirs with Christ.  Jesus made it all possible.  As the last sentence in our scripture passage points out, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  We have a life to live out here in this fallen world.  It’s not always going to be easy as we share in his sufferings.  Yet in humble gratitude we trust that the God who saved us has some unimaginable plans for us his children.

THE SOURCE OF LOVE

(1Corinthians 13:4-8a) Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails …..

  In these verses, The Apostle Paul gives us a definition of agape love, God’s love.  These are the characteristics of the love God has for his creation, and especially for us the crown of his creation.  This is also the love he wants us to have for each other.  Jesus said to his apostles, “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17).

Where did love originate?  Only one answer presents its self, and that is from God.  The Creator fashioned all that is in the temporal world, so it’s a logical assumption that love came from him. This is what the Apostle John has to say in chapter 5 of his first letter, verse 16 – “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  He goes on to say in verse 19, “We love because he first loved us.”  Love is therefore inherent in God.  Love must have existed even before the creation within the triune of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I have a desire to love more completely, and if you share this desire with me, we know that we must go to the source of love.  As I meditate on the list of what love is, I am fully aware of how much I lack in loving God and loving others, but this list also speaks of how God loves me. I believe the secret is to first comprehend his love for me.  The more his love pours into my soul the greater the opportunity for it to flow out of me.  God is love, and he is the one in whom we can find true love.

Author’s note: Did you ever realize that God’s love is a very humble love?

RECONCILIATION BETWEEN PEOPLE

(Matthew 5:23&24) Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

We have been looking at reconciliation between fallen mankind and God.  Since God is holy and righteous, and man is a condemned sinner, there had to be a leveling of position for reconciliation to be possible.  God had a great plan to bring this about.  He sent his only begotten Son.    Jesus gave us the righteousness we needed by paying for our sins on the cross.  Jesus made it possible for us to be reconciled to God.  All we have to do is receive what God has done.

Today let’s explore reconciliation between people.  When it comes to person-to-person reconciliation, we are already on a level playing field with each other because we are all sinners.    In cases between individual, there has to be a change from both sides for reconciliation to occur.  However, in the above verses from Matthew, Jesus tells us to go and initiate the process.

Sometimes just our willingness to go to our brother or sister is enough to begin reconciliation.  Other times when we go to someone they are totally unwilling to work with us.  We can only do our part.  The rest has to be given to prayer.  I’m reminded that only God can truly change our hearts.

The apostle Paul tells us “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Reconciliation between us and our fellow humans is important.  The love of God and the love he puts in our hearts for one another should encourages us to seek peace with each other.  Confronting an issue that has come between us and a brother or sister is not always easy, but peace and restored fellowship is the goal that makes the effort worthwhile.

THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION

(2Corinthians 5:17-19) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Last week I wrote about God’s amazing plan to bring us back to what he desired for us from the beginning.  He reconciled us through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus took our sins upon him and paid the price that we were unable to pay.  So here we are a new creation before God.  He has given us the promise of eternal life – never to be separated from him again.  Can we share a WOW! 

What are we going to do to show our gratitude for this great gift?  We don’t have to do anything to earn this gift because it has already been given.  The Apostle Paul tells us what God wants us to do to show our gratitude.  He has given us the “Ministry of Reconciliation”.  He wants us to tell those we live among: “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 

Yes, as you think about it, this message is not necessarily going to be received as the good news.  People don’t always believe it, and some simply want to go on sinning.  They are often offended by the message.  Jesus told us to be as wise as serpents, but be as gentle as doves since our ministry is not always effective by using the direct approach.  I have always tried to live in the joy and hope God has given me. I’ve worked to love people, care for them, and pray for them, while waiting for the time to come when their heart is opened to receive the message.  This is how I have approached the ministry of reconciliation, but we are all uniquely gifted by God to share the message in the way he has designed us. 

In loving gratitude, let’s continue to tell of the wonderful, miraculous gift God has given us.  Our sins have been forgiven, and we have eternal life with him available to us.  Thanks be to God that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.

RECONCILIATION

When I was a young man many years ago, I learned to keep a balance in my check register, and once a month I reconciled that balance so it agreed with what the bank said was my real balance.  For those of you who remember the task of reconciling your checkbook balance with the bank, you may also remember what an arduous task it was at times.  I remember what a great feeling it was when I finally managed to get the balances to match.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans about reconciliation. He said: (Romans 5:6-11) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were still God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

So you might say that our checkbook balance was way out of sync with God’s eternal bank.  We were suffering from a great deficit.  Jesus, through his death on the cross, credited to us what we needed to be reconciled.  Now our balance matches the balance God expects from us.  Isn’t that a great feeling?  Thank you Jesus!

PLEASING GOD

(1Corinthians 5:9 MSG) But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing.  Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.

A couple of days ago I read the devotional for March 17th from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. For his words of that day he used the above scripture, and he pointed out that the first aim of every child of God is to please God.  It made me think again of the father child relationship, and yes, it should be the goal of every child to please their father.  But what happens when that is not the child’s goal?  What happens when the child wants to do their own thing against the father’s wishes? 

From the father’s perspective it is painful when a child goes beyond our instructions, steps out on their own, and gets them self in trouble.  You tried to warn them, but they did it anyway.  At first you’re angry with them, but as time passes your love for them causes you to forgive them, and you are always motivated to make a way for them to get through the consequences and be restored.

(Psalm 103:8-13) The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

Our Heavenly Father is the perfect Father.  I imagine that he feels pain when we sin against him, but as this passage from Psalm 103 tells us, he forgives his children and removes our sins from us.  He wants to restore us to himself.  How does he get us through the consequences of our sins?  He sent his only begotten Son to pay the consequences for all of us for all of time.

(Hebrews 11:6) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I want to please God; I’m a sinner.  I can’t always please him, but I do my best.  When I fall, he is always there to pick me up.  So, faith is the key to pleasing God.  I believe in God, I trust in God, and through faith I know he will always be my Father. 

FEARING GOD?

 (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Have you ever wondered about what it actually means to fear God?  Imagine that you got in trouble at school, and your mother had to come and pick you up.  You’d have fear of your mother, but then your mother would say these dreaded words, “wait till your father gets home”.  These words would strike a deeper fear.  Well, if you had a good loving relationship with your father, you might be afraid of what punishment was coming, but you’d also have a hurt in your heart because you had let your father down.  God calls himself our Father, and that helps us understand what the fear of God is like.  For those who didn’t have the perfect father experience, this might present us with a somewhat confused understanding of what it means to fear God.

Last Sunday, our pastor used electricity as an example for fearing God.  Electricity is all around us, and we depend on it greatly.  However we also know that if we stick a fork in an outlet we’re going to get electrocuted.  So we respect electricity and have a healthy fear of it. 

The sun is another power source that we respect and maintain a healthy fear toward.  Not only does the sun provide heat for us, but through the process of photosynthesis it also provides directly or indirectly all the food eaten by us and the other living creatures on the earth.  The sun is a life sustaining power that we can’t live without.  Now put on your bathing suit and go lay in direct summer sunlight for 5 or 6 hours and you will experience another aspect of the sun’s power by developing a painful sun burn.  My worse sun burn was obtained in the tropics in a period of one hour.  The pain was excruciating. I became nauseous and could hardly move.  I definitely have a healthy fear of the sun’s power.

God is the ultimate power and the creator of all other sources of power known to man.  He has power over the physical world and the spiritual world.  Fearing God is an intelligent decision, yet there is so much more to God then raw power.  God is also a being filled with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness. In my years of knowing God, I’ve come to love him, and I feel very close to him. I desire to please God because he loves me, and I love him. He is like the perfect father to me.  So let me then close with this scripture.

(1 John 4:16-18)  So we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with judgment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

THE DEPTHS OF GOD’S LOVE FOR US

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(Genesis 2:15-17) The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Galatians 4:4&5) But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

In John 3:16 it is stated that God so loved the world.  We are part of the world he loves.  Since we are loved so much, he definitely doesn’t want us to perish.  In the verses from Genesis, we find the warning from God not to eat from the forbidden tree.  Adam ate from the forbidden tree and brought sin and death into our world.  As a result, we all have the sinful nature from our ancestor Adam; therefore, we are all under the sentence of death that Adam received.  This presented a dilemma for God.  He loves us all and wants us to be with him eternally.

God is just, so the sentence of death had to be carried out; but God, who is never surprised by events, saw this coming, and he made a plan to redeem us.  He sent his one and only son.  Jesus came to earth, took our sins upon himself, and paid for them with his death on the cross. He fulfilled the requirements of the law for us all.  Our death sentence was cancelled.  Justice was served, and God’s redemption plan was completed.

God loves us, and he demonstrated the depth of his love for us by sending his one and only Son to the cross.  Through this great and terrible sacrifice, redemption has been accomplished.  I believe that he is now eager for us to come to him.  God has given us opportunity for the eternal life that he always intended for us.

THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT COMMANDMENTS

Matthew 22:37-40 (When Jesus was responding to the question which is the greatest commandment.)

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus in his response gives us the whole of what God expects from his created ones, love God and love our neighbors.  He states that if you follow these two commandments you’ve covered them all.  This sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?    Yet these two commandments highlight our greatest struggles.

I’ve always been unclear about what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, so I looked through various commentaries, and this is what I’ve surmised.  To love God with all your heart means that God is first and above all others and things in our affections.  Our soul is our very existence, our being.  With all your soul then means that we put our being completely into his hands.  The mind is our intellect, our thought processes. Loving God with all your mind is as proverbs 3:5 indicates: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  I love adding some clarity to this commandment, and I see great freedom and comfort for us if we could conform to its instruction. But, I also see that following this commandment challenges our basic rebellious nature.

The second commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18.  It says: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”  The history of mankind clearly shows that humans have not followed God’s instructions on this commandment.  It directly confronts our self-centered nature.

Jesus has placed a great challenge before us.  God’s desire for us is represented in these two commandments.  He wants a close loving relationship with us, and he wants us to have a close loving relationship with each other. Imagine how wonderful life will be when God’s desire is fulfilled.  Keep the faith, for now what we can do is work on our part with God’s help. When Jesus returns God’s desire for us will be fulfilled.