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.

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THE NARROW GATE

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.

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!   

JESUS AND NICODEMUS

 John 3:1-21

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.

SURRENDER

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.

Jesus offers:

“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.

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM

To conclude what I‘ve been writing about the Kingdom of God I’ve written a short story.  Here is the first part.

 

In the beginning, the Great Ruler established a new kingdom within his realm.  He loved this new kingdom and enjoyed visiting with his new subjects.  He saw to it that they had everything needed for a blissful life.  However, one of his other subjects rebelled against his rule and decided to take over this new kingdom.

Through deception and lies, he convinced the inhabitants of the new kingdom to join his rebellion.  The new kingdom then came under a curse of death and destruction.  It became a dark place full of evil.  The rebel leader delighted in this for he himself was evil.

His rule over the new kingdom went on for many years.  Finally, the Great Ruler had enough.  From the very beginning, he had a plan to regain his new kingdom.  It was now time to implement his plan.  His plan was kept secret, and he caught the rebel leader by surprise.

The great Ruler sent his Son to the new kingdom, but he came not as a ruler but in the likeness of the humble people.  Later, the son began to announce that the Great Ruler’s kingdom had come.  This disturbed the rebel leader, so he began to figure out how to stop this challenge to his rule.

The Son showed the power of the Great Ruler’s kingdom with many signs and wonders.  The people began to follow the Son because they were intrigued by his teaching and the miracles he did for them.  They were also drawn to him because he had power over the rebel leader’s soldiers. 

Many of the people desired to enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but there was a problem.  All of them had indulged in the evil of the rebel leader.  They could not enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom without first being cleansed.  The rebel leader knew this so he was confident that he would keep his subjects.  He thought, “I’ll get my subjects to kill the Son then I’ll for sure have the victory.”

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

In his book Eldon Ladd points out that God’s kingdom is not a place, but is simply his right to rule, his divine sovereignty.  God’s kingdom exists right now.  We enter god’s kingdom when we surrender our will and except his will.  His will being foremost that we receive the gift of his son’s redeeming work.  Receiving God’s salvation births us into his kingdom.   We are new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17) with an existence in God’s eternal kingdom.

Though we who have received salvation in Jesus are now part of his eternal kingdom, we also exist here in the temporal world.  How does our new status affect our physical presence here?  Eldon Ladd states the answer very nicely, “The kingdom of God is, then, the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings” (*Ladd, page 24). 

In my personal experience of realizing God’s will in my life, I have found comfort, protection, maturity, physical and emotional strength, and an overall exciting challenging life.   The accompanying blessings are manifest in my family and friends and a meaningful existence.  God treats each of his children individually, according to who he created us to be, yet we all benefit from his will and the accompanying blessings.

If you have received Jesus as your savior, you have eternal life in God’s kingdom.  You now exist in the realm of God’s divine sovereignty.  We will someday leave our existence in the temporal world, but we will continue to live forever with God our Father.   

Next week let’s look further into our presence in this world as God’s children.

 

*The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, George Eldon Ladd, Martino Publishing 2011