LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

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.

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.”

RIVER OF LOVE

One of the truths that our Pastor is continuingly emphasizing is that God loves us.   He also says that God’s love is hard for us to comprehend.  I think we all know this.  There’s not an abundance of examples of this kind of love here on earth. 

The other day, I was singing an old song, “I’ve Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me”, and I thought of this analogy.

God’s love for us is like a river flowing to us.  We throw rocks of sin into this river; they make ripples, but they never stop the flow.  When we choose a life of sin, sometimes, we actually dam up the flow, but the pressure of his love is always there.  One act of repentance permits his love to breach the dam.  And if we allow it, the flow of his love will continue to wash away the dam, and his love will pour into our lives.  Receiving his love makes us a new person.

This river of God’s love doesn’t stop with us; it flows through us and blesses those around us.  When we doubt his love, the waters get murky and hinder the blessings we can bring to others.  Once again, our quest in this life is to learn to trust God.  A big part of this is to trust that he loves us.  The enemy of our souls will shoot fiery darts from the banks of the river to make us doubt God’s love.  The shield of faith will divert them.  

THE PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD

In my late teens and early twenties, I hung out with a group of guys my age.  We focused our young minds on solving the problems of the world.  Our solutions seemed reasonable and rational.  Then life changed for us. We became husbands and fathers. The big picture problems of the world took a back seat to the daily problems of domestic life.

The world we live in hasn’t changed.  There are still big problems. In our young idealistic minds, we thought that we could show people a better way and that would fix it.  Don’t we wish that were true!  I now know that the complexities of the world’s problems are way beyond any solution I might come up with.

Who then can solve the world’s problems?  God in his infinite wisdom knows that the problems of our world can be defined by one simple word, sin. Sin generally stated is the self-centered perspective that I’m more important than others.  That’s the root of our problems.  Unfortunately, I can’t even fix this problem in myself let along the whole world.

However God has provided us with the solution.  We are currently celebrating his solution.  He came to us as a baby in a manger to provide for us the opportunity to overcome sin.  Sin is an individual problem, so the offer is to each of the world’s citizens.  The problems in our world still exist because many have chosen to reject God’s solution.

Here in this season of celebrating the answer to our problems in Christ Jesus, please join me in a prayer for the salvation of those around us.  Let’s work on the world’s problems by bring one individual at a time to Jesus for the solution to the root of our problems.

JUDGEMENT IS COMING

You frequently hear people ask how a loving God can allow all the evil in the world.  I would answer; a loving God demonstrates his love through patience.

 

The Apostle Peter tells us:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up (2Peter 3:8-10).

 

Just like the ancient Israelites, people think that God is not seeing what they are doing, so anything goes.  Then the day of judgement came for Israel. They were conquered and dispersed.  Therefore, we should not be lulled into complacency by his patience.  God is actively involved in all that transpires here on earth- patiently working through us for the redemption of lost souls.

 

The ultimate display of God’s love is through his son.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son.”  He is allowing time for those who will receive his gift and avoid judgement. However, we should never forget that he has assigned a day of judgement.  God is patient, but the Day of the Lord will come.

HELP ME LORD JESUS

I work as a driving instructor four days a week, Monday through Thursday.  My schedule for those four days is a morning drive, a late afternoon drive, and an evening drive. Between the morning drive and the afternoon drive, I have a span of about four hours.  I usually take a nap before going to the later drives. Wednesday’s nap ended with a dream I’d like to share.

When I’m alone in the house and it’s quiet, I like to take my nap in the recliner.  I got my warm comforter, set the alarm on my phone, and away I went to dream land.  This was my dream.

The night was dark and gloomy.  Misty patches of fog made visibility minimal.  I was riding my bicycle along the path at the top of a very high cliff.  At the bottom of the cliff I knew lay a rocky beach and the dark ocean.  Riding down a short incline, I remembered that the path came very close to the edge of the cliff at one point.   I could only see a few feet in front of me, so I slid my bike to a stop to get my bearings.

In a slow motion split second, while I was dismounting my bike, I realized my mistake.  I was over the edge.  In the resolve that instantly came, in the face of no other option, I began to fall.  I cried out this chant, “Help me Lord Jesus.”  All during my descent, I repeated those words.  I awoke just before the thud at the end.

I have had Falling dreams in the past, but they are rare.  This one was unlike any other. The others were all in broad daylight, and accompanied with extreme fear.  In this dream I felt no fear. I just had an intense realization that in no other name was there hope for survival. 

When I awoke, it took only a few minutes of contemplation to see a message in this dream.  In our lives, we’ve made mistakes; and we are falling toward sure death.  There is no hope for survival except in Jesus.  Help me, Lord Jesus.

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

PSALM 32 CONCEALED SIN

All humans have this in common, sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).  The question then is how do we deal with our sin?  In Psalm 32 David wrestles with sin.  He talks about the anguish of his hidden sin.  The weight of guilt is heavy upon him.  Have you ever experienced the torment of trying to keep a sin concealed?

David writes in Psalm 32:5, Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Confession is David’s answer.  It is amazingly freeing when we bring a hidden sin into the light and receive God’s forgiveness.  We can trust God.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Concealed sin separates us from God; confessed sin restores us to God.  The universal and eternally most important thing is to be restored to God.  The significance of Christmas is that Jesus came to earth so we might be restored to God.  God has made the way for us.  Don’t miss out!  Confess your sins and receive God’s great gift of forgiveness.

THE REAL ISSUE

 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.