Here Comes the Judge – Not!

John 12: 47

I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

In his unforgettable characterization, Flip Wilson said, “Here comes the judge!” Jesus might say, “Here comes the Savior.”

I was reading the story of the Samaritan woman when today’s verse came to my mind. The account of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman is found in John 4, verses 1 – 42. Many people came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah because of this woman. She was an evangelist for Christ even though she had three strikes against her. First, she was a Samaritan, a race despised and disdained by the Jews. Second, she was a woman. As such she was at best a second class citizen; at worst, a non-entity. Then there is strike three. She was apparently living with a man who was not her husband. Strike three, you’re out!

But wait . . . Jesus evangelized a city through this misfit. How can that be? She was the disfavored of the disfavored. Why did Jesus show her acceptance? Why didn’t he try to correct her of everything she was doing wrong? Why did he even condescend to speak with her? One thing is clear to me, as I read this tale; one of us has the paradigm wrong, either Jesus or me.

Many of us, while good intentioned, operate under a wrong mindset. We mistakenly believe that we need to judge and correct in order to save. That is not, however, the model Jesus set for us. In his book, judgment is correlated with damnation. Love is connected to salvation. Let me ask you this question? Which model do you think is most effective? John 4: 39 reads, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” Jesus ended up staying in that Samaritan town for three days at the insistence of the residents all because one unlovely sinner spread the gospel. Because Jesus showed her kindness and acceptance, especially in the light of her living arrangement, she evangelized a town.

Love is the greatest force on earth. God is love (1 John 4: 8) and love is God. Mountains can be moved by applying this, the greatest power on earth. It was love that sent Jesus to earth and it was that same love that caused him to choose the cross. HE DIDN’T ENDURE THE CROSS TO JUDGE US BUT RATHER TO SAVE US. He went to the cross so that we could be free of the judgment that was due us. He removed the judgment from our shoulders, indeed from our lives, and took it on himself. He is called the savior. That must have meaning. In his own words, he describes himself as our savior, not our judge. He has the right to judge us because the Father gave all judgment to him (John 5: 22). He chose not to exercise that authority but rather to spend his life and death in removing judgment from us. That is one powerful testimony. Tell that to a sinner. Tell them that no one is judging them. Tell them God loves them and sent His son to save them rather than judge them. Tell them Jesus wants them to spend eternity with him in heaven. That is the good news of the Gospel.

In Hot Pursuit

Proverb 21: 21            NIV

He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Yesterday we saw from verses 17 and 18 of Proverb 21 that the pursuit of pleasure leads to poverty. Today we are fortunate to get to see the other side of the coin. If we wish to have abundant life, prosperity and honor then we must pursue righteousness.

Now, before we fall on our faces, let us review our thinking on righteousness. Many of us were trained in the notion that righteousness equates to good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, that kind of “righteousness” is repugnant to God. It is a rancid odor in His nostrils. Righteousness, in a word, is Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5: 21 reads, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” This means that Jesus, who is and was the righteousness of God, traded his righteousness for our sin. He became our sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. Therefore, our pursuit of Jesus, is necessarily a pursuit of righteousness.

There is an interesting passage about this very topic from the Apostle Paul. “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9: 30 – 32). The stumbling stone was Jesus. I find this passage amazing. The Israelites, the chosen ones, who pursued righteousness through their works failed while the Gentiles who by faith sought Jesus attained righteousness. Wow!

Shall we, though, take it one step further? The verse for today also says that those who pursue love find life, prosperity and honor. This one is really easy, isn’t it. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4: 8). Yeah, you don’t need a theology degree in order to knock this one out of the park. God is love. Therefore, if one pursues God, then that is a pursuit of love and thus the result is life, prosperity and honor. 1 Corinthians 14: 1 says “Pursue love . . ..” It really is that simple.

So, what is the conclusion of all this? Our happiness, prosperity, peace, joy, well-being, life, and honor are found in the pursuit of the Father and the Son, merely in the pursuit. It is not in the tracking down or even in the finding. Your Father and God does the revealing. Your only part is to pursue. “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him” (1 Chronicles 28: 9).

Faithful Fear

Job 3:25

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.

It is a spiritual law that those things which we greatly fear, we will attract to us. Why? We meditate on it. We roll it around and around in our minds until it takes on a life of its own. As we think on that thing of which we are afraid, we experience many of the same emotions and almost to the same intensity level as if they really happened. In our imagination they are real and they have life. The next thing you know we start spitting that unbelief and fear out of our mouths. Language is how God created all that is. Our words have tremendous power in our lives. So when we harbor fear and dread in our hearts we continually give it life until we finally give birth to that which we have most feared.

But take heart! Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18) and God is love (1 John 4: 8). God is that perfect love which has been shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5: 5). Cast all of your care upon him; cast all that you fear into his hands because he cares for you (1 Peter 5: 7). You now have no reason to fear. He has taken all of the fear unto himself and given you his perfect love in its place. Meditate on the depth of God’s love for you and you will be so full that there will be no place for that fear any longer. Bless God!

Fill the Tank

John 5: 19

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”

Yesterday we read 1 Corinthians 13: 3 – 7 which is commonly known as the love chapter. The Message version certainly brought out some interesting and key highlights. It put the passage into plain language for us which makes the scripture very easy for us to understand and relate to. It also makes it difficult for us to ignore though. We cannot intellectually duck below the radar, avoiding those challenging sections.

In yesterday’s Word of the Day I encouraged you to live according to 1 Corinthians 13. It was a bit unfair of me to implore you to do something without giving you the “How To” instructions so today I am going to give you the secret to living in love exactly the way Jesus did.

Some of you, when you read yesterday’s Word of the Day, made a commitment to live the love walk. You made a decision to adopt 1 Corinthians 13 as your lifestyle. Let me tell you though, this is not something you can accomplish by an act of your will. It is too big and we are not strong enough in ourselves for such a herculean effort but I do admire you greatly for you commitment to the Father.

Truly there is only one way to live the love commandment. So here is the big reveal. If you take this one big secret and integrate it into your life you will have the keys to The Kingdom. Okay – the secret is that you must receive the love of God. God is love (1 John 4: 8). In order to live love you must receive love. How can we say we have received God if we have not received love?  The two are inseparable.

May I be honest with you a moment? I see so many Christians whose life is far from characterized by love. You can see the hurt in them. And subsequently, hurt is all they have to share. Whatever you have within you is what you will communicate to others. We dedicate our lives to God. We do service to Him or for Him but far too few of us ever allow God to actually penetrate our beings; too few bare their hearts to the Father and allow Him to move in and set up house. Even those of us who allow God in don’t let Him arrange the furniture or mend the drapes. We keep Him as a guest and sequester Him to certain rooms. This is not a criticism. It is simply experience. It is the experience of a great number of Christians. So we try to live the love commandment but we don’t have the love to give. We have not received it so we cannot give it.

Look at your life and ask this question, “Would those around me say that I demonstrate the love of God?” Don’t entertain your own opinion because it is likely skewed. Would your children say that above all else you are a lover? What about your spouse? Now, don’t condemn yourself if the honest answer is that you are not expressing the level of love that you imagine God wants for you. I suspect for most of us that will be the response. The solution, though, is not to re-dedicate yourself to the love commandment. The real answer is to humble yourself before the Father and ask Him to fill you with His love. Ask Him to touch the broken places and minister His healing. Then tomorrow, you can do the same thing. This is a journey rather than a onetime experience. We heal in bits, we receive the fullness of God’s love in doses. Fill up as much as you can today and then receive more tomorrow. There is no end to the vastness of the Father’s love.

If you wish to walk in the earth as Jesus did then you must use his formula. He received everything from the Father and then gave it away. We can walk as Jesus walked but only if we have the same power at work within us. That power is the love of the Father. Fill up you tank today.

The Word of the Day

John 1: 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It all began with the Word as all epic quests must. The Word is the power, the beginning and the end. If you are going to undertake any grand project may I recommend that you take a page from God’s playbook? Begin with the Word.     

When God initiated His immense project of creating and populating the earth, He began with the Word. The Word was with Him in the beginning and it was through that Word that everything that was created came into being. Salvation began with the Word also since Jesus is the Word. Thus the Word saved us from eternal hell. Healing begins with the Word. “He sent His Word and healed them” (Psalm 107: 20). Everything begins with the Word.

In my dialogue with God this morning He asked me what the Word means to me. “Well,” I said, “it is salvation and mercy and grace and life and ….” Even as I answered though, I could feel that I wasn’t expressing what it really means to me. You see, when I need to reach God I usually meet Him over the Word the way the priests of old used to meet Him over the mercy seat. I heard the father speak to me. “Don’t answer with your mind. Tell me what is in your heart about the Word.” I stopped and regarded my heart and it took only a moment for this one Word to well up within me. “Love. The Word is love.” Today’s verse tells us that the Word is God and we know from 1 John 4: 8 that God is love. Therefore, the Word is love. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3: 16). So it seems that love is the Word and the Word was sent to us to heal us, save us, redeem, restore and help us. Everything that God is, everything that He wants to do for us is embodied in the Word. That is why the Word is so powerful. It is the power of God in the person of Jesus, our Lord and savior.

It grieves me to see the Word given so little attention at times. Christians and even ministers are not clinging to it as we ought even though our destiny is to be wedded to the Word. How is Jesus to come for his bride when we love not His incarnation in and through the Word? We are abandoning our love and as we do we forsake the blessing and authority that is its substance. If you have not given the Word a prominent space in your life then you are depriving yourself of the victory which is the meat of the Word. Our blessed Father is sending His love to us through His Word. He transmits everything we need through the Word which is alive and came into the earth to save us all. You cannot separate Jesus from the Word. Any attempt to do so results in our disabling the power of Jesus in our lives.

Whatever you do, whatever you are given to do, whether the task be gigantic or commonplace, begin it all with the Word. It is the grace for success in your job, business, marriage, relationships with your children, and every other aspect of life. One word from God can (and will) change your life forever. Get into the book and let God speak His words of encouragement and affection to you. Open your heart and let Him speak His Word directly into your heart. It is with your heart that you first accepted the Word, Jesus, into your life unto salvation. Now let Him speak a new word into your life. Whatever you need, He is right there with the Word to bring it to pass. Be blessed; be filled, in the name of Jesus, our Lord.

The Character of God

Galatians 5: 22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

We saw yesterday from 1 John 4: 8 and 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8 that God’s essential nature is love. Today’s verse reveals the characteristics of God’s personality. As you look at them you can see that first is love but moreover that all the rest flow from love. The best way to get the full revelation of this verse is to put “God is” in front of each word i.e. God is love, God is joy….

These characteristics determine how God behaves and how He interacts with others just the same way as our personality traits predict how we will behave. So, God is always patient with us, always loving, kind and gentle. He exercises great self-control. Most of us can testify to the latter one.

Conversely, we can know what God is not by acknowledging His qualities. For example, we can deduce that God is not unkind or unfaithful. Can we not deduce a great deal more though? He is not cruel, vengeful, harsh, intolerant, hateful, spiteful or mean-spirited. He is all things which are good and none of those traits which are painful to us. He is ultimate goodness and kindness. He is neither over-bearing nor a punitive spirit. His intent, therefore, is not to punish us but rather to guide us with loving hands. And He is not scary. He is beautiful. He is warmth and sunshine.

We can know the Father of all personally, intimately and as we do we perceive greater and greater levels of His great kindness and affection. He is completely predictable in His goodness towards all creation. He loves us.

The Essential Nature of God

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes al things hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

God is love. It is His essential nature; what He is, what He is made of. Love is not an attribute of God, not one of His characteristics. It is the substance of who and what He is. We cannot separate love from God but many people, even those of the church, have lost the certainty of that statement. We understand with our minds that God is love but in our hearts we still hold onto a God who is vengeful and wrathful.

When we combine the two verses for today we get an accurate picture of God. God is patient, God is kind, and is not jealous; God does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; He does not seek His own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes al things hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.

Our God is the perfect parent. Love drives everything He does. His love is sacrificial and unselfish. He is everything we want in a friend, spouse or parent and He is all those to us. He is perfect love. There is no fear in His presence because perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18). Our God who is mighty in deed is as gentle as a lamb. 

We really must get a deep revelation of this lover who is our God. We need to hold deep within our hearts the absolute truth of the Father’s love for each one of us individually. There is no power until there is this abiding truth within us. Your Father loves you absolutely and unconditionally. Meditate on that until you cannot be swayed. Then you will soar with wings as eagles.