Posts tagged ‘love’

Does He Know You?

There is a vast difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing the person. I could spend the next few years in researching the life of George Washington for a new book. I could read his personal journals and everything discovered by historians. And even if I feel like I know him, I will never be able to say that George Washington is my friend and we know each other! While a relationship certainly involves learning about them, gaining that knowledge is no substitute for know the actual person.

Jesus, in Matthew chapter 7 talks about this, and it is a passage that is cause for serious reflection by Christians. Jesus is talking about the judgment, and differentiates between the two groups of people in a very revealing way.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)

There are some important things to notice here.
1. Both groups, the saved and the lost, were verbally calling Jesus “Lord”. Jesus is not diminishing the importance of being our Lord, but is rather emphasizing that just saying the magic words is not what means you have a relationship with God.

2. If we look at the entire passage, keeping His commandments is a sign of one who is saved. If I can say this in a positive sense, obedience is a symptom of having a relationship with Christ.

3. But here is the danger. If you look at what the lost ones say, they were doing all the right things as well! What causes their confusion is that they thought that if they did all the things they were supposed to be doing, they would have a relationship with Christ and go to heaven. If their checklist was complete, someone told them, then their performance was satisfactory and they would make it in.

4. From the passage, what is stated as the determining factor was whether or not Jesus knew them. Did they have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? What got them into heaven was not what they did, but who they belonged to. According to John in 1 John 2,

“He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (I John 2:4-6)

If we concentrate on deepening our relationship with God, the good works will be a natural reflection of the vibrancy of that relationship. Our lives will show the power of the love of God working within us. But if we lack that love, we run the danger of doing the works out a need to be right with God through our performance and not have that relationship. Our lives will not be characterized by “faith working through love”, and whatever is not of faith is sin. Even the seemingly good things we do will be sinful because they weren’t done in faith and love. We will be practicing lawlessness and not even know it. If it takes the threat of losing your salvation and going to hell to motivate you to obey God, then you are already backslidden in heart. Are there things you are doing because God said to do it or else, you have fallen away.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

We, as disciples of Jesus Christ, must make our aim the same as that if the apostle Paul — to know Him!

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

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Our Prognosis

Whenever there is a patient with a newly discovered medical condition, one of the first questions families ask the physician is, “what’s the prognosis?”. They do this because they want to know what the eventual outcome will be for their friend or family member. There is a measure of comfort in knowing what to expect, for we generally fear the unknown. As nearly as possible, the doctor gives the expected outcome so that people can make intelligent decisions about medical care. With that in mind, doctors are very careful about the prognosis they give, since life and death decisions are often made based on their professional opinion. If they are wrong, the results can be tragic.

We serve a God who also makes a prognosis. And when He does, it is always accurate and we can make decisions of eternal significance based on what he says. We can do that because Jehovah has foreknowledge. The Greek word used in the New Testament that is translated as “foreknowledge” is the word “prognosis”. Unlike with humans, when God gives a prognosis based on His omniscient foreknowledge, it is never wrong. Let’s see a few times this word is used and look at what it tells us about our Heavenly Father.

During the apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, he made the following statement about Jesus Christ:

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:22, 23 NIV)

The crucifixion of Jesus was not an unforeseen hiccup in the plan of God. One of the things that made it “the fulness of time” for Jesus to come was that Jehovah knew that if Jesus came in the flesh at this point in history He would be crucified. That was the point, since Jesus was coming to seek and save the lost. Does that mean God manipulated those responsible and somehow forced them to crucify Jesus? Of course not! Fore knowing something and foreordaining something are two very different things. God foreknew what evil men would do and simply accommodated it into His plan.

But why would The Father allow that and even plan for it? Out of love for us and for our salvation. God had planned that all who would come to Christ for salvation would be saved. He didn’t foreordain some to come and others not to come. Our election was based on foreknowledge that we would come to Him(1 Peter 1:2). And knowing that, He made provision for all who would come to make it from justification to glorification. What was necessary was for us was to be “in Christ”.

But this says something more profound about his love for us. Paul, in the letter to the Christians at Ephesus, says that our election (which we already saw was according to foreknowledge) occurred before the foundation of the world.

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love (Ephesians 1:4 NASB)

He chose us by choosing Christ as our Savior. In doing so, He was choosing all who are “in Christ” as well. That means, before the world existed, Jehovah God knew what would happen to His creation and looked down through time. In His foreknowledge He knew each of us individually who would respond to the Gospel. He looked at each of us, knowing how we would blow it, and how we would be helpless, but also that we would come to Him someday, and said “yes, I will go to the cross for every one of them that come to Him in faith.” He looked down the corridors of time and saw John, Tom, Susan, Whit, Cory, Hannah, (your name here), and even me, and said “they are worth it. I will go and suffer and give my life, because if I do, they will come to me and I can save them.” Stop and contemplate that for a minute, or an hour, or a day. Jesus’ prognosis for each one of us was that if He would bleed and die and pay the debt for our sins, we would respond. And based on that, He had compassion on us, emptied Himself, and took the form of a servant, being obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2). There is something to dwell on the next time you take Communion.

A few years ago, a song was recorded by Hillsongs Australia called, “So You Would Come” and I think the words are an appropriate way to conclude this post.

Before the world began
You were on His mind
And every tear you cry
Is precious in His eyes
Because of His great love
He gave His only Son
Everything was done
So you would come

Nothing you can do
Could make Him love you more
And nothing that you’ve done
Could make Him close the door
Because of His great love
He gave His only Son
Everything was done
So you would come

Come to the Father
Though your gift is small
Broken hearts, broken lives
He will take them all
The power of the Word
The power of His blood
Everything was done
So you would come

(Copyright 1997, Hillsongs United)

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Receiving Answers

Let’s take a look at 1 John 3:22 for a moment, because I believe there are some things here that we can discover if we are careful and take our time. For context, I will begin at the previous verse.

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. (1 John 3:21, 22 NASB)

On the surface, if we don’t read closely enough, we can misconstrue what John is saying here. He is not saying that we earn our answers to prayer from God. Well then, what is he saying here?

First of all, lets see what is meant by keeping his commandments. The statement itself implies that we are in a saved condition. Over in chapter 2 John has said,

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 John 2:3)”

If we know Him, we are going know what kinds of thongs to ask Him that would be in accordance with His will.

Another thing to notice is that John separates keeping His commandments and doing what is pleasing in His sight. That is because what John means by keeping His commandments is stated in the following verse. We are to love one another. This fits in with what Jesus Christ said are the two greatest commandments — love God and love neighbor. In addition, it meshes nicely with what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 about everything we doing being useless if it is not done in love.

So rather than a cold legalism and getting our prayers heard by keeping our spiritual checklist filled out, he is talking about doing things that are pleasing in His sight that spring from our love for God and each other.our love for each other will keep us from selfish prayers. Our love for God will cause us to pray “not my will but yours be done”. When we ask for things that are within the will of God, we receive them. When we submit our prayers to the Father’s will, we are confessing that He knows best and will give us what is for our good, even though we may not know what to ask for.

So prayer that is a conversation between those in relationship with Christ, who are walking in love, and asking for God’s will to be done, will always be answered. As our knowledge of God grows, we will not only love Him more, but be even more eager to please Him in all we say and do. When we ask from that foundation, we will have all that God wills for us to have and will rejoice that He knows what is best for us.

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Why Would He Do That?

It is perhaps the best known verse in the New Testament, if not in the entire Bible. It is the most commonly memorized, the one most frequently on signs at football games. It is John 3:16. And it should be that way, for there despite its milky appearance, this verse is loaded with meaning and significance. So lets take it apart and see what we can find in there.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)

“For God so loved”
First and foremost, this verse is not telling us about a ourselves. This verse gives us a look at the character of God. God is the initiator in this relationship. He was not responding to mankind’s collective plea for help, for at the time we were not just ignorant of God, we were His enemies. Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrates His love for us in this”. As the apostle John later writes in his first letter, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (I John 4:10).

“…the world”
God did not pick out just a few elect persons to save. He did not come and make provision for the salvation of one man. No, Jesus was sent to “seek and save the lost”. To do that, a sacrifice was needed that was sufficient for everyone.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (I John 2:2)

“that He gave”
The God who is love personified, became a person to show us His love. Love does that. It gives. God wasn’t sitting up in heaven having feelings for us. He acted and demonstrated His love.

“His only begotten Son”
When infinite love gives, the gift is of infinite value. God did not create an angel and send him down to be our sacrifice. He is so in love with us that He gave that which is dearest of all to His heart — His Son. I have three sons, and I cannot imagine willingly sending one to be tortured and killed for my enemies. But the infinite love of God did just that.

“that whoever believes in Him”
While the gift is sufficiently valuable for all, it is only efficacious for those who accept it. It is just like when a doctor writes you a prescription so you can recover. You can leave the bottle on your nightstand for months and years, and it will do you no good whatsoever. You have to take it for it to work. In the same way, if we don’t believe in Him, we will not be saved. And thankfully the invitation is to “whoever” which is a group that includes each of us!

“should not perish but have everlasting life.”
We were all condemned to die. We were without God and dead in transgressions and sins. But Jesus came to give us life (John 10:10). We, who were His enemies, now will live with Him forever. The next verse, john3:17, says it this way.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17)

We were already condemned. His mission was to save us. God loves us and did everything to provide us a way back to Himself. And that is what the Lords Supper is about.

As we look at the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, we are reminded not only of His broken body and His blood that was shed for our redemption. We also recall the love that motivated such a sacrifice for ones as undeserving as us. Yes, it is love that causes grace, that saved a wretch like you, and you, and me!

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Real Faith Works!

Ever since the days of the Reformation, there has been a strong emphasis on teaching that salvation is by faith. Given the unhealthy stress placed on works at the time, this was a normal reaction. What is needed is a healthy, and accurate, view of the relationship between faith and works if we are to be spiritually healthy and balanced. When James, the Lord’s brother, wrote his letter, the Spirit inspired him to address the subject this way:

Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (James 2:17-20 NASB)

There is no contradiction here with the message the apostle Paul would later give to the church at Ephesus. Read carefully what Paul wrote:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

He is saying, correctly, that our salvation does not come from our performance, or from working our way to God. No one can will ever be able to say that God owes them salvation. But also notice what Paul goes on to say in verse 10.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

We were created in Christ when we are born again, for the uprise of good works. Do you see the order here? The works don’t cause faith and salvation; the faith and salvation produce the works! Furthermore, God has it planned that way.

God always connects a truth to believe with a command to obey. While “faith” and “obedience” can be defined as separate terms, they are inseparable as realities. To put it succinctly, real faith, works!
That being said, faith has to come first. We can have works without having faith (i.e. dead works), but we cannot have faith without works. Build your faith and the works will follow. It is a trap to suppose that we can reverse the polarity of our spiritual power by putting works as a higher priority than cultivating intimacy with God and strengthening our faith.

For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:5, 6)

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In the Glory Land Way

Navigation systems.
Seems like nowadays we have to have them. They are useful, when the work correctly. But many things can go wrong. Sometimes, if you put in that you want to go to Appleton, you have to make sure you specify the one in Wisconsin. Following directions to Appleton, Illinois will not get you home any time soon!

We are all on a journey, and we need to make sure we are on the correct path, and also in the right kind of vehicle if we are to arrive at our desired eternal destination.

The onramp: Salvation
Before we are delivered from sin, we are all on the wrong road. It is a very wide and spacious road, and no one gets in your way. Most folks are on it, and who are we to say that they are wrong? Right? Well Jesus said otherwise.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13, 14 NASB)

The vehicle: Grace
In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul wrote that we are saved “by grace through faith” so I am making grace the vehicle, and faith the engine. For after we are saved, we must remain in grace in order to make it to our heavenly home. At no point in the journey are we ever without the need for grace. So now we have the vehicle, and discovered as well that it is ours as a gift! So how do we make it go?

The Engine: Faith
We must have faith to make any progress on our Christian journey. And faith we must have, without faith we cannot please God, nor receive the reward for those who diligently seek him.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

But how do we get this faith and make it strong? By taking in the Word of God!

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 WEB)

So we now know we need faith for an engine, and we know where to get it. Now we need some fuel.

The Fuel: Love
The fuel our faith engine runs on is love.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6 WEB)

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, (Ephesians 1:15 NASB)

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of love. Without it, your entire journey is for nothing. Nothing else matters if you don’t mix it with love.

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (Ephesians 3:17 NASB)

We have our vehicle, the engine is in, the tank is fueled, and will continue to be refilled, with love. What kind of highway are we supposed to drive on?

The Road: Patience
Back in Matthew 7 we saw that the road is narrow and few people will find it. Once we are on this narrow road, what kind of road is it? It is a road of patience. If we were to receive everything instantly, we would have little opportunity to build our character. It is in the waiting that we learn to trust God.

so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:12 ESV)

Yes, our final salvation must be hoped for with patience.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24, 25 ESV)

Paul commended the Thessalonians for their patience, faith and love.

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; (1 Thessalonians 1:3 KJV)

Now we are equipped for the journey. We have to remember that not of the things I have mentioned above are optional. They all are essential and there are no substitutes for them. Take away any of them, and the others are ineffective and/or nullified. If this is not a journey you have begun, or if you realize that you thought the journey had begun but find yourself on the broad road, come to Jesus and begin the journey on the narrow road. Get in the Glory Land Way!

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Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:14, 15 NASB)

I would like to pose a question to you. Which is easier to do, weeping with those who weep, or rejoicing with those who rejoice? Before you answer please consider the following points, because I am convinced that it is easier to weep with those who weep.

Of course it is easy to rejoice with a family member or close friend that is joyful over a happy turn of events. But what about the co-worker who gets the promotion we felt should have been ours? Do we succumb to envy, or do we rejoice with them and really mean it? When the Apostle Paul wrote these words, he didn’t put any qualifiers on it. We are to rejoice with those that rejoice, period!

“Yes, but what about those who persecute me?” I’m glad you asked! Did you notice verse 14 above? It says to bless those who persecute you. Again, there is no exception clause here. But what does it mean for us to bless them? It means we are to speak well of them, even when they are speaking evil of us. We are to pray for the conversion and salvation of their souls, not for their eternal destruction. Later in this same passage, he puts it this way:

“BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20, 21 NASB)

Sounds to me like we don’t have any choice in the matter if we want to be pleasing to God. So if your enemy is rejoicing over receiving something good, then rejoice with him. Even if they are going behind your back and despise you, follow the biblical admonition to “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17 NASB)

In the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5, Jesus addressed this subject as well.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48 NASB)

But why does God require us to treat “evil” people this way? Because that’s the way He treated us!

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 NASB)

Yes, while we were sinners and His enemies, Christ died for us. He didn’t wait until we changed our minds and wanted to have a relationship with Him. He died for us while we were squarely in the dominion of darkness. And if we have received the mercy and grace ourselves, we would be despising the love that was demonstrated for us to withhold that from others who are our enemies.

So when someone who is out to get you gets a promotion, or when another who is less deserving gets a raise, or someone else marries the one who you once were so close to, rejoice with them! The only way way to overcome darkness is with the light. And the way to overcome evil is with goodness. In the end, you will preserve your soul, and may deliver theirs as well!

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