Our pastor, Eric Nelson, has been speaking on the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John chapter 4. During his discourse Pastor Eric pointed out, “We tend to think that Christianity is about not sinning, but Jesus took care of sin. Christianity is about the source from which we draw life.”
What a great way to express this truth. Our walk with the Lord is not about becoming good people. This should not be our focus. We focus on building our relationship with Jesus and following his lead. The by-product of this relationship is we become better people. We also become more useful servants in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus clarified this with his disciples in John chapter 15. He said, “I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
To become a better, more useful person, we must draw the sustenance of life from Jesus. Our efforts apart from him are useless.
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.
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.”
By Faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11-3).
When I came to faith and surrendered my life to God, my eyes were opened to a new view of the world. I realized that what we see is the result of his creative ability. He spoke this amazing world into existence so we could know him by what he has created. I often say to my students, as we drive toward the sunset, “Look, God is painting us his evening picture.” Every day I find beauty and wonder around me.
I was recently reflecting on the variety of life that God created. My back yard is alive with his creatures. Squirrels scamper around collecting the various seeds and berries from the trees. They are joined by an assortment of birds. I am particularly delighted by the flock of wrens hopping about enjoying the same food supply. A closer look reveals the snails enjoying the vegetation. And that is just in my back yard.
We find life in every part of this earth he made. There are creatures living in the most extreme environments. For instance, some creatures live at the bottom of the ocean near fissures where lava flows from cracks in the earth’s crust. Now that’s extreme, but it was no problem for God’s creative abilities.
As we see what God has made by his spoken Word out of what was not seen, our faith is increased, and we are drawn closer to him. He’s amazing! And he calls himself our Father. What an awesome father we have.
“But they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” This familiar verse from Isaiah 40:31 has the word wait in it. Generally not a favorite word for me, and I’d venture to guess not for you either. Considering that we live in impatient twenty-first century America, you might even say it’s a hated word. “I hate waiting!”
From this introduction, you might guess that I’ve been struggling with the process of waiting upon the Lord. In July of last year, I began the procedure for killing cancer with chemo therapy. It turned out to not be as much fun as I thought. I have felt pain beyond my previous experience. A defunct gall bladder and monthly encounters with gout have topped the pain list.
In the midst of the misery and discomfort, there have been delays. In September, gull bladder surgery put me off for a month, the holidays messed with the chemo schedule, and now I’m delayed waiting for my blood counts to improve. One last session of chemo left, and I’m waiting. (While reading this I hope you can refrain from using the word whiner. Of course I am whining.)
Well, throughout this lesson of waiting on the Lord, I haven’t been doing very well. I’m hoping to squeak by with a “C”. I am learning, but this has been tough. I’m hoping to not be required to take this class over. I’m glad God is merciful.
The purpose of sharing this with you is not to gain sympathy, although I am willing to receive a minor amount. Really, I write this blog to share my struggles and growth as encouragement. You fine people who read this are my fellow travelers. We share this in common, “we are sinners in need of a savior.” Thank you Jesus!
If you truly love someone you will treat them well. You will honor them, and you will certainly not murder them. You will not cheat on them, steal from them, lie about them, or covet what they have. At least, if you love them, you will surely try.
To pull this off you’ll have to be patient, kind, not envious, and not work to look more important than the person you love. I can’t imagine that you’d be rude to them or easily angered by them. When they‘ve wronged you, you’d forgive and forget. You’d protect them, trust them, and hope the best for them.
You may have guessed that what I’ve done here is to connect the Ten Commandments and Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. The Ten Commandments are not just rules to contain us, they are truly about love. The first four commandments are about loving God. The other six are about loving each other. You cannot adhere to the Ten Commandments without love. As a matter of fact, if you don’t love God or your fellow humans, why would you even try to adhere to the Ten Commandments?
Jesus summed it up this way: “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.” (Matthew 22:37-40) There you have it. Love is at the root of what God commands. Love as well as you can, and ask God to increase the love in your heart.
One of my favorite scripture passages is Matthew 11:28-30. In this passage Jesus refers to himself as “gentle and humble in heart”. Doesn’t gentle and humble sound safe. I am drawn to him when I think of him being gentle and humble. Paul supports Jesus’ statement that he is humble with this declaration in Philippians 2:6-8,
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Jesus not only declared himself humble, but he unequivocally demonstrates his humble nature on the cross. When you think of God, do you think of him as humble? That’s not my first thought when I think of God, but he truly is humble. So, what is humble? In all the definitions of humble, I find that not putting yourself first seems to clarify its meaning. Jesus did not put himself first. He put our needs ahead of his.
Adam and Eve were humble because they were created in the image of God. They lost this attribute as a result of the fall. They then became self concerned. At the start of Philippians chapter 2 Paul is exhorting us to return to being humble. He tells us, (Philippians 2:3-4) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He follows this with the scriptural illustration in Philippians 2:6-8 of Christ’s humility.
In our desire to be more like Jesus, humbleness should be near the top of the list. As I looked at this attribute of God, I had to ask myself, am I gentle and humble in heart? Am I safe for others? These questions will dominate my self reflections for the rest of the week. How about you?