Posts Tagged acceptance

Who Condemns?

Romans 8: 34              NIV

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Yesterday I wrote to you about condemnation and freedom. Today’s verse asks, “Who … condemns?” There is only one fit and worthy to condemn anyone. That is Jesus. It was he who went to the cross, died and then arose to sit in glory at the right hand of the Father. So, does he sit there whispering into the Father’s ear all the things we are doing wrong? No. He constantly intercedes for us. Intercession is prayer on the behalf of someone else.

Jesus won his battle. He accomplished his purpose. Why isn’t he just relaxing, eating grapes. For that matter, why doesn’t he complain about all he did for us and how we fail to utilize his good gifts and even the way so many people ignore what he did for them. We may not be very holy either but at least we recognize his sacrifice.

The only person who is worthy to condemn you has chosen, instead, to pray for you. What does that tell you about condemnation and freedom? God values liberty over criticism. He isn’t a disapproving God. He sent his son to you so that your approval is guaranteed. Rejoice in the loving God who accepts you and calls you His own.

Unity v. Uniformity

1 Peter 2: 1 – 2

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

We have all heard the sermons based on this scripture. I have no doubt that you could talk about its meanings and implications for quite a while yourself. I want us to look at this slightly differently today. Let us pull back from its application to us as individuals to a more global level. How does this scripture affect us as the body of Christ rather than just as Christians?

While we are all called to Christ by Yahweh, the Father of our Lord, we are also divided along many lines: denominational, theological, cultural, geographical and more. Sometimes I think there is more that divides us than that which unites us. Few would disagree, though, when I say that what unites us is much more important than that which divides us. Is this a call for unity, then? Absolutely, but that idea is so esoteric that as we devolve back to our daily, individual lives, it may be difficult to discern the larger implications of our individual thoughts, words and actions. I believe that as we close in on the end of this age, the age which is to usher in the return of the Lord Jesus, it is imperative that we find the means by which to lay aside our differences and to come together as a unified body of believers.

The beginning of such a move is imbedded in the end of today’s passage: “[L]ike newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” As we yearn for the pure milk of the Word, as we feed on it as on mother’s milk, we unavoidably grow.” There is no way you can feed your spirit on the Word of God and remain an infant. However, if you only feed your brain and intellect on the Bible, you will not necessarily grow. This longing for the Word comes from the deep places of our soul. It is not a pursuit knowledge but rather a quest for the Lord Jesus himself. When we long for his Word, we find him. In that finding is the growth in the fullness of salvation, remembering, of course, that this salvation applies to every facet of life: saved in your health, saved in your finances, saved in your family relationships, saved in your occupation. It means fullness in every one of those areas and all others as well. The more filled up we become with the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father, then the less our differences matter. We become united by that which is important and recognize that the dissimilarities in doctrine and belief are the Father’s problem rather than ours.

From that revelation comes the unity and it immediately applies itself to the former portion of the verse. No longer do we feel a need to slander another denomination or belief system. There is no more room for malice and guile. In these latter days it is important that we allow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, personally, and in our assemblies. Even firmly structured denominations will find the need, and the impetus, to incorporate flexibility and acceptance. Jesus said to gather in the tares with the wheat and let the Father sort it out. In other words, we do not have to bear the responsibility of who gets saved and who goes to hell. That is all on the Father. We can even let people into our congregations that seem different. If the truth were to be known, few people in our denominations or even in our own congregations agree with every fiber of our doctrine anyway.

If the Church of Jesus Christ is to be fitted together as a Holy Edifice for our Father, then we must not reject one another. Each brick may be slightly different. The miracle is not in our uniformity but rather in our cohesion. Therefore, let us bite our tongues in criticism of other Christian groups or denominations. Let us individually abandon our superiority complexes in favor of acceptance. Only together are we the body of Christ. Individually, we are just a severed, lifeless body part. Malign no one nor group. Let the unfavored have a place and a voice. Embrace all who believe in Jesus as the Christ and Lord. Seek the pure milk which is Jesus as the Word and include all other seekers. We can now put aside the childish things, as Paul declared (1 Corinthians 13: 11), and take our positions as strong pillars of faith.

Love Quantified

John 17: 23

I am in them, and you are in me. So they are completely united. In this way the world knows that you have sent me and that you have loved them in the same way you have loved me.

This is one of those verses you may want to read in several translations. Although, the same point is made in all, they have slightly different nuances. As you will have perceived, these are the words of Jesus. This speech is conversation with the Father. The first observation we may make is how normal Jesus’ dialogue with the Father sounds. It is not stilted, formal prayer. He is simply talking.

Then, as we begin looking at his words, we learn that he is in us as the Father is in him. If we stop right there, we have a very powerful concept to meditate on. What does this mean to our lives? Jesus is to us as the Father was to him in his walk on the earth. Everything the Father is resided in Jesus. He is the all in all. Then all that Jesus had, which included the fullness of the Father, came to reside in us. Isn’t that what Jesus says in this passage? He is in us in like manner to the Father in him. This joining of the Father in Jesus and Jesus’ residence in us is supposed to bring us into complete, and even perfect harmony or unity. It does not say that we agree on all doctrine. It does not say we do not have differences of opinion. It does say, though, that we are united in him, completely and totally. If we are not in unity, I hazard to say we are not truly in Christ or allowing him to abide with us. There is no disunity for all who are in Christ and in whom Christ has made his home. I don’t care if you are Catholic, Baptist or even a Messianic Jew. There is only one body and we are either in or out, it is our choice.

This is a crucial message of the times. As we approach the end of this age, we must come into a united purpose in Christ Jesus. Only a united body will reach the world with the good news of Jesus, the risen Christ. As long as we are back biting and disparaging one another, the world will not come to know that God sent Jesus or that He loves us all, even the heathen unsaved, as much as He loves Jesus. Only our love and tolerance of one another will show the world the love of God. The doctrinal and theological points we tear the house apart over are of no importance to God. In fact, I very much believe we will get to heaven, run to Him and argue our case only to find we were all wrong. Those things just don’t matter. What matters is that the world, which is suffering and broken, sees the love of Christ. If we cannot love our brothers, if we constantly fight with one another, then how is the world ever going to believe in the love of God?

Jesus tells us in this passage that the Father loves us all as He loves Jesus. How much larger a revelation do any of us need than that. If you think God loves Jesus, then you must also accept that He loves you that much. He also loves every single non-believer in the same quantity and quality of love. Whatsmore, He even loves those crazy people in the church down the street.

We are not going to gain ground by telling the unsaved what decrepit, wicked people they are. In truth, I can’t think of much the Father despises more than that. They, like all of us, need to hear that God loves them. They also need to see us loving one another. So, regardless of our doctrinal stripes, let us wrap our arms around each other, joining in one united purpose – that is to share (and show) the love of Christ, the love that gives all for the other person. We need to major on love and learn what it means. There is a graduate study for you. It is a subject so rich and so deep that it will take the rest of our lives, here and beyond, to fathom its depths. Let’s just do our best to let a little of Jesus seep out of us today. You will have challenges today, especially if you have to drive anywhere. You will encounter unlovely people whose mind is solely on themselves. Reach in and touch Jesus within you and let him shine on those people. Let the world see for once and for all that God is love and that He loves ever single person.

Christ is in you today.

Unwed Shame

Luke 2: 4 – 5

And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Mary, the mother of Jesus; venerated, adored and even prayed to, alas was an unwed, pregnant woman.

The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is such a heartwarming tale. I love to read it every year and try to imagine the glory of the Lord shining over the shepherds. What was it like to see the angelic and heavenly host singing praises to God. Wow! Just Wow! It is epic and I want to be translated back to that lonely field and witness the glory of the Lord. As I read, again, the glorious account of the arrival of Messiah, I am struck by the reality Mary, Joseph and others had to live in order to bring this miracle into the earth. I am humbled and whisper softly, “Thank you Father for these obedient servants.” I do not pray to Mary, but I sure am grateful and praise the Father that she hearkened to His voice and His will.

Consider for a moment, people all over this globe have heard the story of the Virgin Mary. She has been depicted in art probably more than any other person in history save Jesus himself. The truth is, though, she was an unwed mother. Now how does that truth play in your neighborhood? What do you think the neighbors said over 2000 years ago? Do you think everyone rushed to her side when her pregnancy was revealed? How celebrated do you think she was then? Think of all of her neighbors. I bet she had one of those judgmental, gossipy old crones living just down the street from her family’s home. Can you for a moment imagine what her parents endured? And bless Joseph, he hung in there with her but at first he wanted to put her quietly away. How familiar does that sound?

There is not going to be another virgin birth but what these matriarchal heroes endured for the glory of the coming king, gives me pause. What would I have said about Mary if I lived down the street from her when her pregnancy was exposed? As much as I do not wish to admit it, I can tell you that I would have judged her. I would probably have thought less kindly towards her and Joseph. I certainly would have assumed I knew how they came to be in that unfortunate circumstance.

I am condemned; not they. They obeyed God at great personal cost. The result of their obedience and shame is my own salvation. I must consider my judgmental attitudes and repent. Who is it today that I judge? Are they not also the beloved of God? Is God’s heart grieved when I judge and criticize His child? “Oh Lord, my God, save me from myself! Help me, help us all to have tender hearts towards all your children, especially, Father, those who appear far from you for we can never know their hearts or circumstances but we do know that you love them as much as you love precious Jesus. No matter how damaged and broken we are, regardless of how far we have wandered from the path, your heart is for us. Help us all to remember the pregnant, unmarried mother of the savior of the world when next we think harsh, judgmental words about one of your own.”

No minister and no ministry is perfect; I least of all. Nonetheless, I wish to echo Jesus’ beckoning statement, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do you know someone who feels shunned or branded as an outcast? Is there someone in your life who feels they have been let down by the church? Jesus took all judgment onto himself so that the grace of God could come on us. Let those people know that God loves them and so do we. In the famous words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone.” And Scrooge, that means you too.

Rejection

Matthew 8: 34

And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; …

How do you expect this sentence to end? I expected the whole city to turn out, fall at his feet and praise him. I thought the next line might be “and they marveled at the wonders he performed in their midst.” That is not how this story ends though. The rest of the passage reads:

And when they saw Him, they entreated him to depart from their region.


Now isn’t that a kick in the teeth? This passage is the conclusion of the story of the Gadarene demoniacs. The introduction to this story says that these two men were so violent that no one could use that road. Jesus cast out the demons, restoring the men and the thoroughfare at the same time. Two of the town’s citizens were restored and a major problem rectified. Yet the people’s reaction was to reject Jesus. It sounds ludicrous with the advantage of 2000 years of hindsight. The same thing happens today though and if they did it to Jesus, of all people; people are going to do it to his followers as well.

This does not diminish the message though. Just understand that even when you do the work of God, even when you preach the message God has personally given you to preach, you are still going to encounter resistance. Some people are not going to be able to receive your message even though it is directly from God himself. But take heart. They did it to Jesus too so you are in very good company.

I do not say that it is always easy to preach the message you have been given but be of good heart knowing that your obedience to God will be much more pleasant than even the rejection and criticism you must sometimes endure. People need to hear the word that God has given you. Don’t let fear have the final say. Do what you need to do knowing that even Jesus ran into critics but the message did get through and at least two people in that town were set free.

Imitating Christ

Romans 15: 7

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Yesterday I shared Isaiah 41: 9 and we saw that our Father, God, accepts us and has not rejected us. Today we see from the New Testament that Jesus also accepts us. But look, Jesus also requires that we accept one another. That will sure put our judgmental and critical natures to the test. Apparently, God did not set us up in the position to be critical of our fellow human beings. Honestly, we just can’t see the things God does nor can we see the way He does. He has the ability to look at a person’s heart. We can only view their external appearance and behaviors.

You are accepted by God and by Jesus. Now you must learn to extend the grace and mercy that you have in them. Let this grace and the love of God fill you. As you receive God’s acceptance you will begin to overflow with the same merciful attitude towards others. If you find yourself critical and judgmental then make sure that you are fully receiving God’s love for yourself. When you come to understand God’s affection for you it becomes very difficult not to share it with others.

God loves you, accepts you and has not rejected you. Open your heart and arms to the rest of humanity allowing God’s love to flow from you . . . in Jesus’ name.

Accepted

Isaiah 41: 9

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, “You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.”

I suppose most people have dealt with rejection or the sense of rejection at some time in their life. Many have felt insecure in their relationship with God too. The good news is that God has accepted you. No matter what the world may say about you; no matter what your negative brother-in-law says about you, God loves you and accepts you; even as you are.

I am not trying to say that most of us don’t need some transformation in our lives but we have been chosen by God. We really need to meditate on this scripture and let it sink down into our spirits. We need to have such a rock solid understanding and recognition of God’s favor over our lives such that nothing and no one can cause us to doubt our acceptance by God. 

This is a really big deal. There are books and books on the topic of rejection because so many of us have dealt with feelings of unacceptance and rejection. Sometimes we feel that we can never be what others want us to be but God is here shouting loudly that you do not have to change for Him to love you. Even before you were born He saw you and you were, and are, lovely in His sight. No matter how many mistakes you make, He still sees the beautiful you and He would say to you that you are wondrously made in His own image.

I feel like I could and should write much more on this so that you hear time and time again that God considers you lovely and worthy of His affection. However, He has said it best, “I have chosen you and not rejected you.” Hear the word of the Lord.