C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.” What a wonderful challenge. Too quickly we forget about the rich grace and mercy our great God has shown us who believe. We forget that God sought us out and called us to his glorious salvation. Yet after we have been walking with the Lord for a few years we began to be tempted not to take God so seriously. For this we must repent and turn with hungry eyes to our Lord once again. Our God is constantly at work all around us, yet I wonder how much we have missed seeing and experiencing because we have been preoccupied with frivolous things?
A wise man once said, “Genuine faith is assuring, insuring, and enduring.” I think that is a great summation of the Christian faith. Faith is a word that is thrown around a lot in our day. People have “faith” that their sports teams will win or that the stock market will do well. But to use the word faith in those contexts reveals only a thin hope or an uncertain expectation. However, Christian faith is quite different. It is what we live by and it is life changing. It is not just a pleasant guess, but is a triumphant certainty that is being trusted. You see, when a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, they are fully relying on Him for the hope of today, the future, and life everlasting. If a person has “genuine faith” it will bring him assurance of his current stance with God. He will have joy knowing that Jesus has brought him peace with the Father. “Genuine faith” also insures that the believer will never have to fear eternal damnation in hell. And then finally, “genuine faith” will endure or persevere. When troubles come or life is going great or if persecution strikes, those who possess true faith will not lose it, but endures. By God’s grace they will weather through this life true to Him no matter what it costs. Listen to Paul’s challenge, “If we don’t give up, we will rule with him. If we deny that we know him, he will deny that he knows us.” – 2 Tim. 2:12 CEV. So my friend, check your faith. If you are only following Jesus when it’s popular, but are willing to deny Him with your words or actions when things become uncomfortable, then you need to reexamine your faith. But if you love the Lord through the good and the bad, longing in your heart of hearts to be faithful to Him and pressing on to never give up, then rest assured my friend, God has given you genuine faith!
It’s been stated, “A wise man can learn from a fool – as soon as it can be determined which is which.” The basis for wisdom and foolishness is truth. That which follows what is true is wise and that which arises contrary to truth is foolish. Thus the only way to discern wisdom from foolishness is to know what truth is. However, truth is not determined by what feels right or by what a majority deems to be truth. Real and lasting truth comes from God. Nature attests to this. The absolutes of light and gravity are truths that can be tested and yet their origin comes from God. The same is true about Jesus Christ. The message of the cross and forgiveness of sins is an absolute reality, but its origin comes from God. Those who test this truth find salvation, but those who chose to ignore it will see it as crazy talk. What they fail to realize is that this willful ignorance is dangerous. This is way Paul tells us, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV. How do you respond to the message of the cross?
It’s been observed that, “In the good old days judges would suspend the bad men instead of the sentence.” In the world we live in today, it seems that injustice runs ramped. Lives are taken, property is stolen, and prejudice actions are blatantly flaunted. Will there be no reconciliation? Will justices ever come to being? The answer is yes. However, it will not come in the form that the world is looking for. Karma is a myth and reincarnation is a lie. Humanity doesn’t possess the ability to bring fair and proper justice. Why? Because that right belongs in the hands of God. You see He alone is the supreme judge and all of life hangs in His balance. The world is quick to tell us not to judge, but no one will escape the judgment of God. We are told in Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” That means upon death every person will has an appointment with God. Those who die in their in their sins and crimes will face an eternal judgment of hell; where they will receive their just penalty for their actions. Yet anyone, who dies having true faith in Jesus Christ well receive an appointment with God that will usher reward and eternal glory. Now you might ask, but where is the justice in that? How come a criminal who trusts in Christ gets to be rewarded with heaven? The answer is found at the cross. It was there that Jesus took on the just punishment that all humanity deserves and He did it on our behalf. Therefore, anyone who puts their trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and for new life will find grace instead of wrath in the presence of God, because their justice has already been served in Jesus. So my friend let me ask, will you be receiving the justice you deserve?
Many years ago someone observed, “Since the old-time evangelist has disappeared from the scene, hell isn’t 40 percent as hot as it used to be.” While that little colorful remark was made several years ago, we still find it has a great deal of relevance today. Hell is a topic many shy away from. It is unpopular, uncomfortable, and to many unbelievable. However, you cannot claim to believe “the whole counsel of God” and reject the reality of hell. Not only did the prophet Daniel, the apostle Paul, and John the Revelator proclaim that hell was an eternal place, but so did Jesus. Actually we find Jesus teaching the truths of hell in all 4 gospels. So according to the Bible the issue isn’t whether hell is a real place or not, but it is an issue of whether we will be going there or not. This is why God sent Jesus. You see, because hell is real people who die guilty of their sins go there. Therefore, God in his infinite love and mercy sent Jesus to take our punishment for sin (our hell) and nail it to the cross. Thus Jesus became our sacrifice and provided for us a means of salvation. Salvation from what? Hell. For God’s glory and for our benefit Jesus has made a way to escape hell. We receive this escape and forgiveness only one way. We must admit we are sinners and we are destined to punishment. Next we must turn from our sin (repent) and believe that Jesus, the only Son of God died and rose again to take away your sins. Then finally, we must be willing to confess this truth to others. If you have done this hell cannot touch you and heaven is waiting for you. Many will here this message and scoff, but they are making the biggest mistake of their lives, because hell is as real as Jesus is.
Picture yourself walking early one morning on a sandy beach next to a calm lake shore line. Jesus is walking with you and as you enjoy each others company, He stops and looks you in the eye and asks “Do you love me?” Of course your first reaction would probably be like Peter’s was when he was in this very scenario. In the very last chapter of the Gospel of John we find Jesus asking Peter 3 times if he loved Him. Peter’s reaction was “Why yes Lord, you know I love you.” As the life of Peter would prove, he very will did love Jesus, but how many of us who claim to be “Christians” truly love Jesus?
To be honest, I have not always had times when I would be comfortable answering the Lord’s question. As of this writing I have been a follower of Jesus for 27 years and of that time there have been seasons that my life did not show others that I loved Jesus. However, there have been wonderful seasons as I’ve grown in Him that I can say today without a shadow of a doubt that I truly love Jesus. It saddens me though to see so many cultural Christians who don’t really have a desire for the Lord. They don’t realize that Jesus and His disciples had a lot to say about our affections toward Him.
Back in the Gospel of John we find some profound words Jesus gave to His disciples. “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” – John 14:23-24 NIV. Jesus tells us that love is an action, not just a feeling. For instance, I could claim that I loved my wife, but my actions could show otherwise. If I never talked to her, if I didn’t care about fulfilling her wishes, or if I didn’t care about making her happy, then it would be pretty evident that I didn’t love her. Oh, I may use her to fulfill what I want and what makes me happy, but my actions would show that I certainly don’t love her. Well the same truth applies with our relationship to Christ. If we never talk to Him, have no desire to obey His teachings, and couldn’t care less about what He thinks about our lives, then we have a problem. Too many times people come to this issue of salvation with selfish motives. They are presented a gospel message that is full of grace, but no responsibility. They come to Jesus just as they are and they stay that way. No change, no repentance, no surrender of authority has come into their lives. All that they care about is not going to hell. Tragically though, Jesus requires far more than a muttered pledge of allegiance to Him. Christ wants us soul, body, and heart. Listen to this hard saying from the lips of Jesus, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” – Matthew 10:37 ESV. Did you catch that? If you love your family (father, mother, son, or daughter) more than you love Jesus, you are not worthy to be a disciple.
What breaks my heart is that too many “Christians” love the idea of Jesus and salvation, but they don’t truly love Him. In a heartbeat they would put father, mother, son, daughter, work, hobbies, pastimes, pursuits, and pleasures over Jesus. They praise Him with their lips, but their hearts and lives are far away from Him. The reason for this is because they do not truly know Him. They have made a “decision”, but they have never been regenerated. They have never experienced new life. They do not have God as their Father. At this point you may think, “How can he make such a claim?” Well, I’ll let Jesus answer that: “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me.” – John 8:42 NLT. You see because these folks don’t truly love Jesus, they don’t truly have a relationship with God.
Am I saying that love for Jesus is what saves us? No. Absolutely not. However, I am saying that our love for Him is evidence that we have a true saving relationship with Him. You see our love for Him is an over flow of His love for us. “We love Him because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19 NKJV. It is because of the loving grace of God that we can become His children. Out of love He would die on the cross for our sins and open the door to forgiveness, cleansing, heaven, and purpose. By His loving grace we now have a mission in life and that mission should be fueled by our love for Him. Not that we are driven by trying to keep our salvation or trying to keep His love for us, because His love and saving work is eternal. No, we live and serve out of a heart of gratefulness, praise, and joy – true love.
So if Jesus was to pose His question to you “Do you love me?” how would you answer it?
The great Martin Luther once said, “There is no justification without sanctification, no forgiveness without renewal of life, no real faith from which the fruits of new obedience do not grow.” What did he mean? This great reformer of old was calling for a changed life to go with one’s changed faith. Luther was boldly saying that if a person was claiming to be a Christian, then their lives had to reflect it. How true this conclusion connects with the teachings of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 NKJV. The true Christian life is a relationship and not a set of rules. Just as with all our intimate relationships, if we are motivated by love we will live and chose to put their desires first. The same is true our walk with Christ. If we truly love Him our lives will be changed.
It’s been wisely stated, “The pleasures of sin are for a season, but its wages are for eternity.” I find it amazing how lightly people, particularly Christians, treat sin. Sin is the very thing that is cursing us to die and it is what is costing countless numbers of souls an eternity into hell. Yet we treat sin so lightly. Sin puts enmity between us and God, sin brought disease and sorrow into the world, sin brought hatred and bigotry, sin put Jesus on the cross, sin is everybody’s problem, and because of sin we are all born spiritually dead. Why do we treat such an awful thing as sin so lightly? Because we lose perspective of its deadly power. We believe for a moment in the quick pleasures sin promises and we falsely assume that God’s major priority is our happiness. But this ought not to be the case! If you are a follower of Christ, you have been forgiven a great debt due to sin. Jesus shed His life’s blood so that you can be free from the pain, penalty, and shame sin had on your life. God’s major priority is not your happiness, but His holiness. And a holy God cannot and will not be in the presence of sin. Thus, for His glory and holiness, God provided forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Therefore, friend, ask yourself the question, “Why am I playing around with the very poison that once controlled my life and that cost my Savior His very own?”
Everybody at some point can relate to this statement: “Some of us don’t know what we want, but we feel sure we don’t have it.” Before we came to Christ the Holy Spirit began stirring our hearts about something missing in our lives…Jesus. However, after salvation there are times when we feel that we want more in our lives but are not sure what we are looking for. I believe that his a good desire given by the Holy Spirit as well. You see, God did not save us just so that we c0uld be His little companions in heaven. No I strongly believe God has saved each of us for a purpose to accomplish something on this earth for His glory. Where do I get such a belief? From the Bible. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago ” – Ephesians 2:8-19 (NLT). So, dear friend, when you get that stirring feeling that you want more out of your Christian life, listen to that feeling. It just might be the prodding of the Holy Spirit for you to do something grander for the Kingdom than you ever thought you would ever do!
I know that this is a dated video, but boy is it a great Good Friday reminder! Happy Easter everyone!