LET US CELEBRATE

Romans 3:21-24 (The Message), But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.

Verse 25, God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.

We have new life in Christ Jesus. That new life begins the moment we believe, and it last forever. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We have entered the Kingdom of God. His will guides us and protects us. He is with us no matter what we encounter in our remaining years here on earth.

When we leave the earth we will live in righteousness. We will be together forever. I’d like to add we’ll all be nice, since the sinful nature will be gone. Jesus did all this for us. So let us celebrate what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. I’m looking forward to that time when we’re all together in Heaven. Imagine the celebration.

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WHO IS THIS JESUS?

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Colossians 1: 15-17. In this passage Paul gives us an insight into who Jesus really is. He writes:

He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The last statement, “in him all things hold together,” always intrigues me. When considering atoms, the invisible building blocks of the whole universe, the question has always been what holds an atom together? Perhaps the answer is Jesus. And, of course, I have had to ask myself, what would happen if he let go? Well, the reality is that Jesus holds all things together, whatever that actually means, and this points to the ultimate power of our savior. The one who humbled himself and came to earth in human form is the all-powerful Creator God.

Jesus is God in the fullest sense. He has been given complete authority over all things. He is the supreme ruler over all of creation. What he did for us shows his amazing character, and warrants him eternal praise and gratitude.

THE SOURCE OF NEW LIFE

I often write about the new life we have as Christians. Today, I’d like to write about the source of this new life. How did this come about?

I was standing in front of The Judge condemned to death. The wages of my sin had put me in this position. I was indeed guilty; I deserved the sentence. As I waited for the pronouncement of the verdict, and I anticipated the sound of the gavel fall sealing my fate, a man in the courtroom stepped forward. He addressed The Judge with these words, “I want to take this man’s place your honor.”

“Why would you do this?” asked The Judge. “You are innocent”.

He simply said, “Because I love him.”

The Judge looked at me and said, “You’re free to go.” He turned to the bailiff and ordered, “Take this man into custody.”

The Man not only volunteered to take my place, he actually did it. It was a horrible death he endured for me, but it was the source of my new life.

Jesus took my place. Jesus is the source of new life. I never want to take for granted what he did for me. My response, with a heart full of gratitude I humbly kneel at his feet, and I speak the same words he spoke to his father that dreadful night, “Not my will, but your will.”

UNDENIABLE LOVE

Last week I worked full days and had church and family activities that occupied my time. I had a very busy week.  However, through the activities of the week I was awakened to Jesus’ undeniable love.

Maundy Thursday our church family got together to share dinner and communion.  Jesus ate his last supper meal with the disciples, and then he initiated the symbolic practice of communion.  We wanted to share in that remembrance in a meaningful way.  We sat down together and participated in what Jesus did those many years ago.

Good Friday my wife and I went to a local church that provides the Stations of the Cross.  If you’re not familiar with this presentation, it is a walk through the various experiences of Jesus’ day of crucifixion.  At each station, you read the scriptures that pertain, and take time to pray and meditate.  We’ve done this for several years, and each time is different.  The Holy Spirit always leads us into another perspective of what Jesus went through on that day.

The effect of last week’s undertakings left me overwhelmed.  As I walked through the gruesome abuses that Jesus endured, I encountered undeniable love.  What led Jesus to the cross and what kept him there was simply love.  I cannot say anything more definitive. I can only say I have now felt his love more deeply and personally than ever before.  He loved us, and he died for us.

I close with this exclamation: I praise you and thank you Jesus for your love expressed so undeniably!   

LOVE = RESTRAINT

Last week I wrote about restraint.  Continuing to contemplate this topic I have found an interesting connection.  Restraint is a companion to love.  If I love my neighbor as myself it stands to reason that I will restrain myself and defer to my neighbor’s wants and needs.  If I do not love then why restrain myself.  I will simply pursue whatever I want without regard for others.  Therefore love provides a motivation for restraint.

When love motivates us to restrain ourselves we find those virtues rising up in us like the ones Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, 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 produces restraint.  In love I restrain myself and become a better person, more God like.  I feel better about myself when I am patient and kind.  I feel bad when I trample over others because I’m in a hurry.  The people I push past and disregard don’t feel very well either.  Wouldn’t it be great if I restrained myself because I love others as myself?  Help me Lord!

God loves us.  He restrains himself from judging us because he loves us.  As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago God loves us all (see Another Perspective).  Every human is God’s creation and he desires the best for us.  The all-powerful God of the universe restrains himself because he loves.

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to protect him from the humiliation, the brutal beating, and the horrible death of the cross?  He restrained himself because he loves us.  He carried through the Father’s plan for our salvation because he loves.

THE RESURRECTION

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

Jesus is alive!  He was raised from the dead on the third day.  We celebrate Easter because everything that Jesus came for is completed with his resurrection.   From his birth, to his death on the cross, and then his resurrection, the miraculous plan of God for our redemption was accomplished.  For us we can be confident that life does not end in death because Jesus overcame death.  God raised him from the dead, and he has promised to raise us.  Eternal life is his gift to us.

I like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 where he compares resurrection to the planting of a seed.  You put a seed in the ground and bury it.  If conditions are right, a living plant rises from the ground.  What comes up is totally different in appearance than the seed you planted, but it has new life.  When we die and are buried, our bodies as we know them are finished, but when we are resurrected, we’ll have a new body.  Unlike the old body, our new body has eternal life which is God’s gift to us.

Jesus is alive!  All that we hope for is centered on this truth.  If Jesus is not alive than what do we have?  Yet, he is alive, and our future is secured.  Praises be to God!  We are like little children standing in awe and wonder at what God has done for us.  The greatest gift has been purchased, and it is now freely given to you and me.  Oh what amazing things you have done, our holy and wonderful God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

THE RESTORATIVE PROPERTIES OF EASTER

I find it always happens when I’m busy.  You know.  I’m busy working to accomplish my goals focused on the cares of this world.  God begins to fade into the background as an abstract concept.  It is very easy to ignore God for a time.  Then Easter comes.  “Oh, Hi God, I’ve been busy.”  “I’m looking forward to eternity with you, but I have these things to take care of now.”  It sometimes takes me the whole of Easter week to refocus to the reality of God’s presence.

 When I’m busy, I’m full of pride and self-concern.  From this position to the humble place of kneeling at the foot of the cross is a long distance.  One of my favorite scripture for the journey is from 2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  As I contemplate these words the tasks that so occupy my thoughts begin to fade.  Though I don’t see Jesus physically walking down the street, the reality of the steps he took some two thousand years ago, and there eternal significance, loom before my mental eyes, and I’m transported to his place of sacrificial love.

As the week proceeds and I think about what Jesus did, that which I am busy about dwindles to its temporary, insignificant place in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I can finally humbly kneel at the foot of his cross, and there I’m refreshed in my relationship with the God of creation.  And oh what peace I find there.  Burdens are lifted, and priorities are clarified. 

I pray that the restorative qualities of this week of Easter celebration may find you and work an eternal transformation in your soul.  Happy Easter!