Posts Tagged John 10: 10

Salvation is for Today

Luke 4: 18 – 19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Stop for a moment today and consider this passage. This is from the book of Isaiah and it is what Jesus read in the synagogue.  His speaking of this passage marked the beginning of his public ministry. If God sent Jesus only to die on a cross bearing the sin of the world, then why this scripture? If eternal life was the only thing on God’s mind, why did Yahweh anoint Jesus to do all these other things? My point is that we have narrowed our focus as to Jesus’ purpose and in so doing have missed the greater blessing.

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I suppose there is no other scripture in the whole of the Bible that is more well known than this one. We make our children memorize it in Bible School, put it on bumper stickers and even billboards. It is a wonderful passage, but it is not the whole story. Jesus didn’t stand up in the synagogue and say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me so that none shall perish but instead have eternal life.” Why? Because that was not his singular purpose nor his anointing. It explains God’s love but not Jesus’ purpose. If you want to know the reason God sent Jesus you must read 1 John 3: 8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” This scripture discloses Jesus’ purpose. Let us go further, though, to see what Jesus, himself, says about his purpose in the earth. John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life, free from the works of the devil, is the gift Jesus came to give us. Yes, eternal life is part of that package but that is the end game, not the whole thing. God made the earth for us to live in and enjoy. He gave us this planet to be our home, not heaven. He didn’t create earth as a testing ground but rather as a home. The point is, the time we spend here is not simply a waystation. Life here isn’t just passing time until we get to heaven. We are supposed to have abundant life here and now. Look again at today’s passage. Clearly that has nothing to do with heaven. Those conditions do not exist in heaven. Adam’s job was to make earth look like heaven so that we would have a heavenly home right here. Jesus prayed, “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” (Matthew 6: 10). Earth is to reflect heaven.

Jesus came to restore our original purpose to us and to return the earth to us as our heavenly home, a home made in the image of heaven. Then God will come here and live with us. We’ve got to stop waiting to get to heaven to start fulfilling our purpose. We’ve got to stop waiting until heaven to start living, especially living in the fullness of God’s intent for us.

Redemption? Yes, it’s a big deal, but it is not the end of the story. It is the means by which God put us back on track. We could not have the abundant life Jesus came to give us until we were cleansed of the sin which stained us and our existence. Furthermore, I do not think eternal life is the evangelical message; it is not the salvation message. The word salvation means, rescue or safety, deliver, health, victory, prosperity, help, and welfare, (Strong’s 3444 & 4991). It does not only mean deliverance from sin. The savior came to give deliverance, health, victory, prosperity, help and welfare. In other words, he came to give us an abundant life right here, right now. This is why I think evangelism is important, but it also points out why our evangelistic message is presently off target. We are trying to get people into heaven while Jesus is trying to save them from their current peril and give them a great life now and forever.

Eternity is now. It began a long time ago. God has plans to get us into heaven but the good news that Jesus shared is that our freedom and victory begins now. This is not the good news we have been carrying to the world, however. God wants people to know they can be free now. Jesus came to set the captives free. Amen? The good news of the gospel is that God wants to bless you now, in this life. He wants to free people from torment and hurt. He wants to mend their hurts and restore them to good life. People need God now, not just in heaven. The message of the gospel is that God loves you now. Salvation emphatically is not, buy your ticket to heaven and then suffer until you die. That is not God. If you know God at all, you know that is not His heart.

To be clear, the evangelical message, the message that all the world needs to hear is that God wants to be your savior today. He wants to move into our lives and improve them. He longs to give us perfect peace and joy in this world, right now. Yahweh is a now God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is that life which in intertwined with our beloved, our Father, Yahweh. He who loves us has sent His son to restore us back to health, welfare, liberty, prosperity and joy. This is the good news of the gospel. Tell that to someone. Heaven is here and now for all who live in Christ. Now is the salvation of the gospel. Now is life and love in the Son. Jesus is here now to give you a good life. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29: 11). Tell someone the good news. Jesus has come, and he has life and healing in his hands. This is his salvation, and ours. Amen.

Who is Your God?

Ruth 1: 13, 21         GW

My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi when the Lord has tormented me and the Almighty has done evil to me?

This is classic Old Testament confession. The people of those times didn’t have the years of history we now have, nor did they have the written Word. They are the history we read. They didn’t know about Satan. They actually knew very little about the Holy Spirit. Of course, they didn’t know Jesus. How different their experience is than ours. When something happened, either for good or for ill, the only cause had to be God.

It chagrins me more than I can express to tell you the whole truth in this regard for I have found that we are not that far removed from our ancestral roots. Despite the years of experience of the saints, the coming of Jesus, the sending of the Holy Spirit, page upon page of revelatory writing by the prophets, disciples and apostles, we still hold very close to Naomi’s confession.

Recently, I attended a prayer breakfast for the National Day of Prayer. It was a great event. One of my friends, though, said something that bothers me. He told me about a gentleman with cancer then followed up by saying that He thought God used disease to help us grow. After all, he told me, we don’t grow in the mountain top experiences but in times of trouble.

Well, first of all, I don’t believe that is true for me. I find my greatest extensions on the mountain top communing with Jesus. Under intense stress, I withdraw and that is not where I find growth. His statement really hurt my heart and I pointedly did not agree with him. I told him that I believe God is good and that He is good all the time. Moreover, God doesn’t have cancer in heaven to give us. To which he remarked, “Yeah, there are no tears in heaven.” There is a revelation in there. We agreed that regardless of the cause, we know he who is the answer.

I am still bothered by this dynamic though because I hear it more frequently than I hear statements of faith and belief in a loving God. Or are people saying that God loves them so much that He gave them cancer so they would grow? That seems ludicrous to me. After thousands of years, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit, we still sound like Old Testament people who knew no better. We are Old Testament believers when we should be thinkers who have been renewed by the gracious good news gospel of Jesus Christ. Will someone give me an Amen!?

There is death and doubt in our churches and if that doesn’t pain you perhaps we should be asking why. Why are we claiming calamity in the name of God Almighty, the merciful? We are no longer ignorant. Are we? We know there is a devil out there and that his full intent is to rob, kill and destroy (John 10: 10). How is it, then, that when we see destruction, death and robbery we attribute it to God?

Somewhere along the line, each of us needs to decide; do we believe in a good God, one who is merciful and full of lovingkindness or do we believe in a cruel task master? Who is your God? That is the question. Let me introduce you to mine. He is love – all the time. He wants to protect and keep you. He said He has good plans for you, plans for your well-being rather than calamity, a plan for hope and for a future (Jeremiah 29: 10). That verse cannot be reconciled with a God who gives you cancer. So decide. Who is your God?

Unfair

Romans 12: 17 – 18

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

There are some verses in the Bible that, frankly, it would be more comfortable and convenient if God would remove them. And that is the problem with being a Bible person, you must deal with the uncomfortable one’s and you must do so honestly. This verse is one of those unpleasant scriptures.

Face it, there are times in life when someone just does you wrong. It is bewildering. Perhaps you have always been nice to that person. Maybe you are the only one who does treat them well but then they act out to you. You deserve better but this is what you get, a rude, ugly person who seems intent on making your life miserable. Well, join the club and be in good company because we have all had to deal with these unlovely folks.

When you encounter one of these people, just look to Jesus. He certainly had to deal with persecution. All he wanted to do was to love people and help them. He said that he came to earth to give us a good life (see John 10: 10 Amp.). Look how people hated him and how they treated him. Even his own family called him crazy and wanted to have him put away as a lunatic. And yet, in the midst of being hated, in the midst of being ill-treated he gave up his life for those people. When we didn’t love him, when we loved our sin rather than him, he laid down his life for us. Can you hear that truth at a deeper level today? While you hated God and didn’t love Jesus, they gave all they had for you.

So how are we to treat the ugly people in our lives? Now you understand why I don’t like this verse. God has called me to love them in an active (rather than passive) way even when they are being mean and ugly to me. It’s not fair God!!! No, it isn’t fair but it wasn’t fair when He put His son on a cross for us either. We must do our best to love these folks into the kingdom of God.

Look, Christianity isn’t easy, who said it was? And it is not a religion. It is a lifestyle, a way of being but that doesn’t even begin to say it all. It really is like our DNA gets changed when we give our lives over to God. We are aliens in this world. This is not our home. We are different and we are supposed to behave differently than the world. We are called to love those who revile us rather than fight them or have our revenge. We are supposed to perform acts of love to those who maltreat us. Does that make sense? Not if you think as the world thinks but if you will turn your face to God and let Him minister to you and through you, you will find that He will give you the strength to love the unlovely. He will even give you joy in the doing. I don’t know how He does it, but it is true. Once you quit fighting with Him about the fairness of the thing and complaining about how they treated you, then He can begin to show you His way of thinking. And He will reward you for your obedience. I think obedience is its own reward, but that is not His way. He likes to pour out a blessing on you. It is just His nature.

I know that what I am proposing to you today is difficult and I know all of the arguments about why it’s not fair and doesn’t feel right. I have felt all of the emotions, made all the claims, but now I know the truth. The only way these unlovely people are going to change is through the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe and you have been given the right to wield this power. So when you feel like calling down fire from heaven on someone remember what Jesus said to James and John in the same circumstance. “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9: 55). In other words, you are of the spirit of love, so we move by and through love. Jesus could have French fried those soldiers that drove nails through his hands and feet but instead he prayed for them. He asked God to forgive them. So, pray for those people who are mistreating you. Bake them a cake. Go out of your way to love on them. Speak to them in kindness and forgiveness. I know they don’t deserve it but do something nice for them in Jesus’ name. Make it a gift to him for his kindness. Just pour your love for him onto them. You are going to be amazed at the results. Then write me and let me and let me hear your praise report.

Life – Chai

John 14: 6

I am . . . the life.

My friend told me that the number 18 in Hebrew means “life” so, since today is the eighteenth, it is the day of life. The word “chai” means life, or alive. I like to think it means “fully alive.” Let’s celebrate life today.

Jesus is the life, he is who gives us life. When we were dead in our trespasses, he came and gave us life, his life. This Jewish concept of Chai, then, is very significant to Christians. Of course, let us not forget that Jesus is Jewish. For that matter, so are you because you have been adopted into the family of Abraham.

Jesus also said he is the truth. The truth is, there is no life without Jesus. When we were Gentiles, we thought otherwise, but life and the fullness thereof, is only found in the life devoted to and in Christ. As you have undoubtedly noticed, this ministry’s slogan is “Intertwined with Jesus.” The reason is that everything to do with life is tied up in Jesus. We have a mission to go into all the world and tell people the good news about Jesus, that he came to bring us abundant life (John 10: 10). The thing which concerns me, though, is that many of us are not living the life Jesus came here to give us, the life he won for us.

Life should be full. It embraces physical health, financial solvency, rewarding relationships, spiritual nourishment and meaningful work. It means adventure and fulfillment in the Spirit and joy unspeakable. All good things are in Christ and it is this fullness of life that he came to give us. Anything less than everything is a debit in the life column. My heart is with Jesus in this. I want you to have fulness of life. Today is a good day to reach out for all Jesus has for you. It is a great day to receive fulness of life and the perfect day to thank our God for sending life to us.

Lift your glass and celebrate with me. L’chaim – To life.

Pinocchio

Philippians 2: 12

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Do you remember the Disney movie Pinocchio? I had it on last week and was struck, as never before, with the commonality between that little wooden headed boy and Christians.

The story goes that Geppetto, a wood carver by trade, made the little wooden puppet. He wished, though, that this little puppet could be a real boy. The blue fairy heard Geppetto’s wish and because he had given so much joy to other people she visited his house to grant his wish. She waved her magic wand and the puppet came to life. Hallelujah!

Do you see the parallel there with us and Jesus? When we were dead, nothing but inanimate wooden heads, he came and gave us life (John 10: 10). But wait, there is more to the story. The blue fairy explained to Pinocchio that it was because Geppetto wished for a real boy that she came to give him life. Upon hearing this, Pinocchio asked, “Am I a real boy?” The blue fairy told him, “No,” that becoming a real boy would depend upon him. He had to prove himself truthful, brave and unselfish, and to learn right from wrong to become a real boy. Interestingly, she didn’t say that he had to “do” right rather than “wrong”. That is implied. The key was in learning the right way from the wrong way. It is not instinctive. We, like Pinocchio, have to learn.

Pinocchio’s task was monumental, almost insurmountable, but the fairy didn’t leave him on his own to learn all of these important lessons. He would have been destined to fail. She gave him a helper. His name was Jiminy Cricket. We too have been given a helper. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever (John 14: 6). We have been told to be transformed (Romans 12: 2) but like Pinocchio, our task would be impossible if not for the Holy Spirit, our helper.

We have another similarity with Pinocchio. Jesus came and gave us life but it is up to us to become real Christians. We have the life, but we have to be transformed into “real boys” through our own walk with our helper. When we do not listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we end up in the same kind of trouble that Pinocchio found when he did not heed the advice of Jiminy Cricket. Because of his own actions, Pinocchio was being transformed into a jackass. I am afraid that comparison is far too close for comfort.

Many of us have thought that once we accepted Jesus as Lord, we were done. We concluded we could go on living like Pinocchio’s worldly friend, Lampley, without reaping the consequences. Wrong! The salvation prayer is akin to what happened when the blue fairy gave Pinocchio life. From there we should have received advice like she gave Pinocchio. It is up to you to become a real boy. Prove yourself truthful, brave and unselfish; learn right from wrong and you will be transformed into the very image that Geppetto, the Father, has for you.

We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling but we are not alone in this or any other endeavor. God didn’t tell us to be transformed and then we would be saved. No! He saved us, gave us life and then gave us His very own Spirit to be our guide, our conscience, if you will. We will never be transformed without his help. We cannot do this work in our own strength or else we would have created a prettier version of ourselves long ago. But here’s the rub, he cannot do it without us either. This is always a cooperative effort.

I hope you take your own transformation seriously. I hope you seek the heart and mind of God to discover where He wishes to lead you. The road is far better when we follow the advice and leading of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe me, go watch Pinocchio and see how it turns out. Spoiler Alert: the secret is in learning to be unselfish.

Who are We?

1 Peter 1: 15 – 16

Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

This has been weighing on my mind quite a bit lately, so I am compelled to write about it. Few people want to hear holiness preaching and few pastors want to preach it. None the less, God calls us to be a holy people. What does that mean and how does it apply to everyday life? Is God calling us to give up everything that is fun in order to be His? The answer to that is, “No,” but He is calling us into a life with and in Him and that necessarily means a life which is distinguishable from the world, a life which has been transformed.

Romans 12: 2 tells us not to be conformed to this world but rather to be transformed. This is one of the most important lifestyle verses in the New Testament. The more you meditate on this scripture, the more application you find for it in your life. Jesus came to give you an abundant life (John 10: 10). However, that does not mean that he came to increase your appetite for the things of the world. He doesn’t mind you owning things. He is not depriving you of the good things in the earth. He is, however, trying to save our lives from the pitfalls.

Everything we are and everything we do should be offered up to Him. We should be living a life in which we put our desires on the altar so that He is in charge of them. Anything can become an idol if it occupies space in front of God. So, that may be television, games, books, social events, food, drink, sports, literally anything. If you are a coffee drinker and you have never put coffee on the altar and sacrificed it to God, you should. That does not mean He is going to take it away. It means that you choose to put coffee behind your passion for God.

We are called to be a peculiar people (1 Peter 2: 9 KJV). That is a strange statement. What it means is that we are different from people of the world. Ephesians 1: 4 reads, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” That’s got to mean something. He has called us to be holy and blameless before Him. He provided the blood which cleanses us, but we have a role in this too. I don’t want to say it this way but . . . Jesus didn’t spill his blood so that we can run around like heathens. Do you agree? And yet, I find myself, my Christian friends and frankly, most Christians, looking no different than unsaved, unwashed, unredeemed Gentiles. I have to counsel myself that Jesus’ blood means more than that.

Can we get real for a moment? I have struggled with my weight, so, have I really and truly done as Romans 12: 1 commands, “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” What about alcohol consumption? I have never been one to preach abstinence, but I wonder, sometimes, if a beer with friends has become more important than the Word of God. Is our pleasure coming from the things of the world or the things of God? Only the things of God will satisfy. Things of the world tend to be addictive by which I mean, we always want another. That is why we binge watch TV. It’s fun but even after a weekend of watching television, we still want more. On drink, one piece of candy is rarely enough. We will never get satisfied and the more we try, the further God recedes into the background of our lives.

This is not about recrimination or condemnation. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8: 1). It is a call, however, to examination. Are we individually and /or collectively a people whose priority is God? Do we attempt to live lives which are holy before the Lord? Or have we been seduced by the world such that there is no distinguishing characteristic between the children of God and the children of the world? Have we put the pleasures and enjoyment of this world before our service to God? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and praying about. I am convinced that the church needs a wake-up call but that will only come about as we join in praying for the body of believers we call Christians. Be united in holiness before the Lord. Worship Him with all you do. He is worthy.

Comfort and Joy

Philemon 1: 7

For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love.

Tidings of comfort and joy I bring to you this day in the name of Jesus. “Remember Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day.” He came offering us comfort. He is the gift of joy to each person. Joy is a choice, however and is the comfort he brings. His presents are offerings from God the Father but not all choose to receive.

As I listen to this Christmas carol, I hear in it Jesus’ evangelical message. It is different from many of the evangelical messages I have heard in the past. This one holds no condemnation. It does not scream that we are destined for hell unless we repent. This message from the savior king says very simply, “I have come to offer you comfort and joy.” Hallelujah!

Sometimes I think we misunderstand the word “savior.” Somehow we even confuse it with task master or condemner but Jesus, by his own admission, came to give us abundant life (John 10: 10). When all the world was lost and spiraling down to eternal torment, God, in his love, devised a plan to comfort us and to give us great joy. That was His big plan, to soothe and save us from ourselves. He sent a baby, probably the most non-threatening image in this world, to be our savior.

I hope you will sing about comfort and joy all day today and as you do may God’s love and comfort fill you. I pray that His presence within you will fill you with peace, the peace of Jesus, that peace which is incomprehensible unless you experience yourself. Love, joy, peace and comfort are His gifts to you today. Enjoy!