We are not loved because we are lovable, for we are not. It is true that some of us may be lovable to some others of us, but this is only when we look at the matter from a human perspective. From God's perspective there is nothing in us to make us even remotely desirable. He is holy; we are unholy. He is just; we are unjust. He is loving; we are filled with hatred and all forms of sin. In short, we are sinful and in willful rebellion against Him. Yet He loves us. In fact, so great a marvel is this that God even uses it to commend His love to us.
"While we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man-though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." Romans 5:6-8
In creating us God created us with a vacuum that can only be filled by Himself. In other words, He created us, not to a meaningless existence, but to an existence that is the highest existence possible for any created object, namely, communion with the One Who created it. So it is as Augustine said, "For Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it comes to rest in Thee."1 The fact that we can know God and are restless until we do know God is proof of His love.
"O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is." Psalms 63:1
I do not know what you would consider to be the number one desire of most people today. But I suspect that if I were to conduct a poll, in one form or another the answer that would come highest on the list would be happiness.
The difficulty, however, is that happiness is not so easily attainable. We seek for it. Indeed, in this country the privilege of seeking for happiness is even declared to be one of our unalienable rights. But no one can guarantee happiness itself. So our founding fathers wrote wisely when they defined those rights as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Liberty can be guaranteed. So can life, up to a point. But not happiness. Only the right to pursue happiness can be guaranteed to any individual.
If you are one who desires to find happiness (as most of us do), and if you have not been able to find it, then you should be interested in the following words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ nearly two thousand years ago. Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:16-17 KJV).
"Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." John 13:16-17
Why do we cherish the Scriptures? Why do we memorize them? It is because these words, having come to us from God and therefore also bearing His nature, are eternal and so will not pass away. Anything else that we know will pass away, sometimes well within our lifetime. The ideas and viewpoints that your children are being taught today in grade school will be changed before they reach high school.
If you are a parent, have you ever thought that there is nothing that you can leave your children that will not pass away in time, except the truths that are found in this Book? Some parents think that they have served their children well if they have left money to them. But money can disappear overnight. Sometimes the children even reject it. Other parents think that their legacy to the children will be a fine education or perhaps their own values. But these change also, and even education is not valued as highly by many as it was formerly. Only the Word of God remains.
"All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people is grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:6-8
Some of us try to crowd too many things into our lives. We try to crowd in our own plans for our lives. We try to crowd in other people. Some of us crowd in our successes or the good opinion of our friends. Then we are disturbed when our lives seem cluttered and disorganized and when they seem to have no meaning. If that is so for you, you need to learn to let other things go. Let Jesus have His rightful place and learn to pray with true sincerity, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." It is rightly said that either Jesus is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. So allow Him to be what He must be and certainly will be one day. The Bible says, "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25 KJV).
"Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end. The children of thy servants shall dwell secure; their posterity shall be established before thee." Psalms 102:25-28
What is God like? The answer is that God is like Jesus. Do you think that God is love? You know that God is love because Jesus Christ is love and showed it by dying for us. Do you think that God is holy and righteous and good? Do you want to know that God is filled with wisdom, that he understands you, that He is able to help you in any extremity? You know that because of Jesus. Therefore we, as Christians, are not left in the dark as to what God is; we do not find ourselves saying, "Oh, I wish I knew what He is like! If only I could know Him, that would certainly be satisfying!" We are not in the position of those who make that kind of statement. Rather we are those who turn our eyes to the Christ as we find Him in the Scriptures and say, "There is our God revealed." And we love Him and worship Him because of it.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." Colossians 1:15-20
The privilege of prayer should not lead us into a preoccupation with our own affairs, as though prayer were a blank check drawn on the bank of heaven given to us so that heaven's resources can be spent purely on our own needs or pleasure. Prayer implies responsibility, and part of that responsibility is intercession for others. Do others have needs? Then we should pray for them. The one who truly understands prayer and who prays according to the will of God will pray for others; when a believer is himself in the will of God and is therefore praying according to the will of God then he will pray for others.
"Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . ." Ephesians 6:18
Christians often fail to love those who are in the world and so fail to win them to Christ. But it is also true, scandalously true, that Christians often fail to love Christians. They believe in brotherhood, no doubt. But they restrict it to their own particular company of believers. Sometimes this is a social division, as when Christians associate with and love only those in the upper-middle class or, by contrast, only those within a lower level of society. At other times the division is by denomination. At still other times, Christians will hold closely to those only within some rigid theological persuasion. Is this right? Can Christian brotherhood and the love that goes with it be so restricted?
Membership in the family of God is not limited by anything other than confession of Jesus as the Christ. Consequently, the love of Christians for their brothers and sisters should extend to all who thereby give evidence of being God's true children."
"And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also." 1 John 4:21
To walk as Christ walked is to live, not only by rules, but by example. It is to follow Him, to be His disciple. Such a discipleship is personal, active, and costly. It is personal because it cannot be passed off to another. There was no escaping the call to a personal discipleship for Peter.
To walk as Christ walked is also active because the Lord Himself is active. To be inactive is to be left behind.
Finally, it is costly as well, because the path that Jesus walked is the path to crucifixion. It leads to glory, but before that it leads to the cross. Such a path can only be walked by the one who has died to self and who has quite deliberately taken up the cross of Christ to follow Him.
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1-2
In Jesus, love became new in "the lengths to which it would go." Here, you must look to the cross, for it is at the cross that the height and depth of God's love are seen, as they are not seen to the same degree elsewhere. To what length will the love of God go? To the length at which the very Son of God will take upon Himself a human form, die on a cross, and there bear the sin of a fallen race, so that in bearing the punishment for that sin He is actually alienated for a time from God the Father and thus cries out in deep agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34). That is the extent to which the love of God goes. It is thus that love becomes an entirely new thing in Christ.
"and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19
I do not know why some people think that it is somehow meritorious to express doubt in matters of religion. We know such. They think that it is somehow vain or impolite to be certain and that it is humble and therefore desirable to say, "I do not know . . . I hope so . . . I would like to believe . . . I think God will help us." Nothing could be farther from the truth. The truly humble man is the man who bows before God's revelation and accepts it because of Who God is. It is the proud man who thinks that he knows enough about anything to doubt God. Besides, God says that it is the equivalent of calling Him a liar; for it is as much as to say that His word is untrustworthy (cf. 1 John 5:10).
Jesus lives! Then stand upon it. Believe it. Declare it. Act upon it. Say with Job: "I know that my Redeemer lives."
"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether." Psalm 19:7-9
It is one of the greatest wonders of all time that Jesus became like us in order that we might become like Him. How was He like us? He became like us in temptations, for the author of Hebrews writes that He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15 KJV). Have you been tempted? Are you being tempted? So was He; yet He was victorious over it. Now He reigns with the Father in heaven so that you might turn to Him to find mercy and have grace to help in time of need.
Jesus also became like us in disappointments. A friend betrayed Him. Others let Him down. No one really understood Him. His own countrymen, whom He had tried to help, killed Him. Clearly, Jesus knew disappointments, but these did not defeat Him. They did not make Him bitter. Instead He triumphed over them.
"Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16
How can it be that the One Who had existed with God the Father from eternity and Who was Himself God could become man and suffer even unto the point of spiritual death, so that He was actually made sin for us and was separated from His Father? I cannot understand it. Yet that is what the Scriptures teach, and I believe it. Moreover, I marvel at it. For to look to the cross of Jesus Christ is to marvel at the extent of His love for us. We see there the height and depth of His love. We see the length and breadth of it. Does Jesus love us? Yes, He does. The cross is the proof of His love. He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, so great was His love for us.
"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:4-6
Will you play your part in Christ's miracles? You say, "What do you mean? No one can raise the dead but Jesus." Yes, that is true. But although it was Jesus alone who could bring the dead to life, He delighted to involve the bystanders in the miracle. First, they were told to move the stone. Then, after the miracle, they were told to unbind Lazarus. True, we cannot bring the dead to life. But we can bring the word of Christ to them. We can do preparatory work, and we can do work afterward. We can help to remove stones-stones of ignorance, error, prejudice, and despair. After the miracle we can help the new Christian by unwinding the grave clothes of doubt, fear, introspection, and discouragement.
The miracle is Christ's. But there is work for us to do if we will do it. Will you?
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building." 1 Corinthians 3:6-9
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1 Augustine, Saint. Confessions and Enchiridion, translated and edited by Albert C. Outler. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955. Also available at http://www.ccel.org/a/augustine/confessions/confessions.html
2 "The World Has Yet to See. . ." Christian History & Biography, issue 25, January 1, 1990. Also available at http://ctlibrary.com/3690
3 "February 1, 1990-John Charles Ryle Writes His Farewell Message." Christian History Institute, Worcester, PA 19490. Available at http://chi.gospelcom.net./DAILYF/2003/02/daily-02-01-2003.shtml
4 Anonymous, Cloud of Unknowing. Third chapter. Public domain, 14th century English. Available at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/anonymous2/cloud.ix.html
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