WHAT CONSTRAINS YOU?

I was reading in the book of Job a couple of days ago when I came upon these words, “The fear of God has kept me from these things – how else could I ever face him?” (Job 31:23 The Message) Job says these words after he describes a long list of sins he did not committed. What constrained Job was his relationship with God.

These words and my thoughts about these words sent me into self-evaluation. I asked myself, “what constrains me.” After much contemplation my final answer to the question of what constrains me is I love God. How could I ever face him if I indulged in things that would displease him? Well, unfortunately, I have indulged in many things that would displease him. I find that I am unable to please God on my own. What a dilemma, I love God and want to please him, but I can’t seem to restrain myself.

The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma and then says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Christ Jesus our Lord!” I need a savior. I can’t do it on my own. Jesus has not only saved me from sin, but he has sent me a helper, his Holy Spirit. God has done everything to help me in my desire to please him. When I fail; He forgives me. How amazing is that!

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.

OUR PLACE BEFORE GOD

Since the beginning man has been fascinated by the universe. We have studied the stars for patterns and worshipped the sun and moon. Astronomers find that the universe is increasingly more vast than they had imagined. The Bible tells us that God spoke it into existence.

I had this contrasting thought this morning, I thought of the magnificence of God. The one who spoke the universe into existence, and then there’s me. So what is my place when I go before God, mouse before a lion, krill in the mouth of a whale? The humblest place I can find is not adequate. Jesus came to help with this dilemma.

He first referred to God as our Father. Father is a perception we can easily relate to. God, being perfect, would represent the ideal father. One who will love us, protect us, teach us, and provide for us.

Jesus went even further when he addressed his disciples. In John Chapter 14 when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father he replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Obviously, Jesus didn’t come as the whole manifest presence of God, but he represented the heart and character of God our Father. Jesus was all that an ideal father would be, and then he humbly gave his life for us.

My conclusion, I am on the receiving end of my relationship with God. My fate is entirely in his hands. I can never repay him for his love, kindness, and mercy. I can never match his humbleness. My place before God is one of gratitude. I will praise him and thank him the best I can for as long as I have breath.

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.”

In His Presence

In the beginning, Adam and Eve had no hindrance to being in the presence of the Lord.  After their disobedience, they entered a whole new perception.  They had gained self-awareness.  With self-awareness comes concern for self.  How do I look?  What are they thinking of me?  What should I do?  Concern for self hinders our ability to enter the presence of the Lord.

An internal battle commences each time I want to spend time with the Lord. There is always one more thing to do before I can start.  Everything I forgot to do somehow miraculously comes to mind.  (I should make a list.)  When I finally do get situated, my mind scatters to a thousand thoughts.  As I strive to get my mind settled, I realize I haven’t tuned my guitar in a while.  I like to start my time with the Lord singing a few songs of praise.  The guitar turns out to be in pretty good tune, but it’s always good to check.  Then it’s, what song to begin with, and what key is that in? 

Finally I begin to sing.  Boy, my voice is getting old.  That note used to be so clear.  Wow, this is a great worship song.  If I ever lead worship again, I’ll have to include this song.  Then I realize I’ve sung through the entire song without a conscious thought about who I’m singing to.  I cried out, “Help me Lord.”  I sang the song through a few more times trying to focus my mind.  Then the Lord spoke to me, “Write about this struggle.”

All along he knew what I was there for.  I wanted to hear from him about what to write this week.  In his humble way, he answered the question I didn’t ask.  A rush of gratefulness entered my heart.   My self-concern was put aside.  I then enter into his presence and worshipped.  God had made a way!

A TRANSFORMED MIND

One of the difficulties followers of Jesus face in our current society is avoiding the consumer mentality.  “Let’s go shopping” is the call.  We get to buy things and spend money.  There is never an end to what we can buy, but unfortunately there is an end to the money we have to spend.  Running out of money is a definite downer.  We are then driven to figure out how we can get more money.  Living the consumer life never brings us satisfaction.

I have been reading through Matthew chapters 5-7, and as I read it occurred to me that Jesus is redirecting his disciples’ way of thinking.  Jesus taught his disciples to think differently.  He wanted them to put aside self-concerns and focus on the Kingdom of God.  Paul restates Jesus’ teaching in Romans 12:1-2,

            So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering.  Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.  Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you (The Message).

If we allow him, Jesus will change our way of thinking.  He will transform our minds.  Let me recap what Paul is saying.  We should take everything about our lives and place it before God as an offering.  Then we should humbly accept what he has done for us.   Our way of thinking is not about what we can do for him, but what he has done for us.  So with a heart of gratitude, we fix our attention on him, and receive the new way of thinking that he works into us.  This allows us to do what he sets before us without distraction.  The result, “God brings the best out of us, develops well-formed maturity in us.”