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.

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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!   

NEW LIFE

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.

THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH

Webster’s Dictionary defines meek:

1 Enduring injury with patience and without resentment – submissive – humble 

2 Deficient in spirit and courage

The first definition doesn’t convey the characteristics of weakness but of Christ likeness.  This definition speaks of the qualities Jesus displayed on the cross.  It is a Godly perspective.  The second definition imparts thoughts of weakness, timidity, and cowardice.  This is a worldly perspective.  Which of these will inherit the earth?

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10 the Apostle Paul responds to the to the Corinthians’ worldly interpretation of his meekness.  He uses a little sarcasm in verse 1 when he states: “By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!”  They had obviously accused him of being cowardly.  He goes on to let them know that his meek/humble approach to them was not out of weakness but out of caring for them.  He was trying to change their viewpoint from worldly to Godly.

I believe that the ones who endure the injuries of this world with patience and without resentment, who are submissive to Christ, and who humble themselves before their God will inherit the earth.  These are not weak people.  They are the ones who have been overwhelmed by the love of Christ, and from their humble thankfulness give that love to others regardless of the cost.  This takes strength and courage.

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him. 

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life.  One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives.  God’s will can be explained by these two commands.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “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.”  God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose. 

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill.  Bonnie calls this our passion.  For her and me the passion has been for children in need.  Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children.  The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and satisfied as we walked with the Lord.  What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him.  We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill.  “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

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

THE BRAVEST ACT

Bravery is a desirable trait.  Most of us find it so.  The Encarta Dictionary defines bravery as: courage in the face of danger, difficulty, or pain.  Throughout the annals of history there have been innumerable acts of bravery.  Usually when being brave, a person puts aside self-concern and moves onward.  They have the hope of a good outcome, but they are willing to face the possibility of a bad one.

Matthew records in chapter 26 of his gospel the story of Jesus’ final hours before he was arrested.  Jesus knew he was facing a brutal death.  There was no chance of a different outcome because what he was facing had been planned from the beginning of time.  In the garden of Gethsemane he said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  Then he went a little ways away to pray.   He prayed three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus also said to his disciples, as Peter raised a sword to defend him, “Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”  Jesus had the power to remove himself from this terrible situation at any time.  Instead, he bravely faced a certain horrible death.  He was compelled by obedience to his Father ‘s will and a deep love for you and me.  This is surely the bravest act.

 

Two thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer: 

Pray it every day; because, it is a daily prayer.

When you pray alone, you should personalize it.  In the garden, Jesus prayed, “My Father.”