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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).”