What is the real issue that Christians need to concern themselves with? This question arose from a conversation I had last week. A close friend and I were discussing the changes in morality that we’ve seen in our life time. As we talked, it dawned on me that, though I’m saddened by the moral decline in America, this is not the real issue.
Jesus didn’t charge us with fixing the sin in others, and he warned us not to judge others (See Matthew 7:1-5). However, he did charge us with two things. The first is to love one another, and the second is to make others disciples. Our job is to love our fellow humans, and bring them to him. He’ll take care of fixing the sin.
Sin and evil are all around us, and this has been true since the fall of Adam and Eve. Jesus has the only cure for sin. So the real issue is do you know Jesus? As Christians, loving sinners and bringing them to Jesus is the issue that should occupy our time.
Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt we owed for our sins. He rose from the grave to demonstrate the new and eternal life he had purchased for us. The cross is our place of entry into God’s eternal Kingdom. It is the gate that Jesus prepared for us. We can come to God by no other path. Salvation is found only at the cross. Our old life is left at the foot of the cross, and there we enter into our new life in Christ Jesus.
In the story of the Good Shepherd found in John chapter 10, Jesus refers to believers as the sheep. He makes it very clear that he is the gate for the sheep to enter. He says, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep (verse 7).” Many have looked for other ways, but the only way is through Jesus.
In John 10:17-18 (The Message) Jesus explains:
“This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
God the Father gave Jesus the authority to redeem us. No one else has been given this authority. He alone is our redeemer. Yes, the gate is narrow, but it leads to redemption and eternal life.
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!
In the dark of night,
Filled with deep despair,
I sit here all alone.
I need to be rescued,
But who is there to rescue me?
Many of us represent God’s compassion by helping to rescue lost souls. After all we are God’s ambassadors. Yet every lost soul needs to reconcile with God. So to truly rescue the lost, we need to bring them to Christ Jesus. Our comfort and encouragement are helpful, but only at the foot of the cross can they find new life.
I am always delighted when I read a familiar section of scripture and find new insights. As I read through John 3:1-21, I was amazed at what I hadn’t seen before. I had never realized that Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus included the beloved and most memorize words in the Bible, John 3:16. I had also not recognized with what compassion Jesus spoke to Nicodemus.
Jesus explained to Nicodemus exactly why he was here on earth and what he was doing. The gospel was clearly laid out for him. Jesus gave more direct information to this Pharisee than he did to any others in his recorded confrontation with the Pharisees.
Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding him. I believe skepticism and ingrained presuppositions hindered Nicodemus from comprehending Jesus’ words. Jesus knew this, and he challenged him to clear his mind and see the truth in what he was telling him. He took time with Nicodemus. He apparently wanted him to grasp what God was doing. I’m sure Jesus knew that Nicodemus was to become one of his followers.
I read through John 3:1-21 a number of times in both the NIV and The Message. The more I read the more I was touched. I began to see love and beauty expressed in the words Jesus spoke. He spoke to Nicodemus from his heart. I believe he spoke with passion. I encourage you to read this passage, and let it minister to your heart this coming week.
What does the word surrender say to you? Give up? Turn over control? Quit? This is not a word we humans like very much especially the turn over control part. Quitter, coward, weakling these are a few of the words we used to label ones who surrender. When a criminal surrenders to the police it usually means going to jail. A defeated army that surrenders is at the mercy of the conquering army. History contains a number of examples of the results of surrendering. Unfortunately, humans’ surrendering to humans doesn’t always work out very well for the ones who surrender. Surrendering is at best a risky business when we talk of surrendering to each other. Surrendering to God is a different business.
God invites us to surrender, but he never demands it. He promises that if we do surrender to him he will improve our lives. In this case surrendering might not be so bad.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I can personally attest that surrendering to Jesus is as he says. I was in the pit of despair some time ago feeling useless and lost. I finally sat down on a rock and said to God, “I can’t leave this rock without you.” I surrendered. From that moment my life changed. I am now useful, happy, and at peace in my soul. The longer I stay with him the more I realize these promises. And, he also has promised me eternal life. In my case surrendering has proven to be a good choice.
Meditate on the above scripture, and hear Jesus calling to you. Find new life in Jesus our savior.
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
My wife, Bonnie, in sharing this scripture with me the other morning, explained that at the time of her surrender to the Lord she actually had come to hate her life. I realized that could also be said of me. I had come to the end of trying to make a life on my own terms. In my distress, I surrendered to the Lord. These moments of surrender happened for both of us in August of 1980. Jesus took over and renewed our lives.
Our two lives came together later that year, and we married five months later. But meeting someone and getting married was just part of the new life in Jesus. The life we hated was gone, and in its place Jesus built a life of purpose. I view of my former life as useless. I was just dissipating life. In this new life, Jesus has made both Bonnie and me useful, and we get to keep this new life for eternity.
If you’ve come to the place of hating your life, there’s a great remedy. Surrender your life to Jesus. He’ll give you a life of purpose that will be eternal.