Love

“Guilty!”

The dreaded sentence has been pronounced against His beloved.  Now she must face the consequences of all her bad choices.

The things she’s done are repulsive to Him.  Even so, He knows in His heart that He still loves her deeply.  He can’t bear to think of her suffering.

So He insists on taking her sentence that she may go free and have a chance at a better life.

The idea proves far easier than the action.  The sentence is excruciating!  Yet all through the agonizing punishment, the cruel, blasphemous taunting and mockery, the torturous beatings, and the inhuman crucifixion, thoughts of only one person fill His mind.

Her.

I’m so glad she doesn’t have to go through this, He says to Himself.  I’m so glad I could do this for her.

It won’t be much longer nowHe reminds Himself as the pain intensifies.  Soon we can be together again.  Forever.  I will gladly bear scars for all eternity if it means that she is spared! I love her so much!

He suffers in silence as the hours drag by like eons.

Just a little while longer, He repeats, and we can be together forever.

Father, He prays in the midst of His agony and humiliation, help Me make it through this for her sake.  Just a little while longer. Just a little… while… longer…

***

He saw her coming from afar.  Finally!  The reunion He longed for was about to be a reality!  The one thing that kept Him going through the most unbearable moments of His ordeal was the thought of her.  He had done it all for her.  So that beautiful smile He loved could always illuminate her face.  To think, they would soon be married!  And then nothing would ever separate them again.

Now, as she drew near, He had eyes only for her.  The smile was on her face as she scanned the tiny garden, their special meeting place, looking for Him.

He stepped out of the shadows of the trees into the sunlight, all the love He had for her written on His face.  The she saw Him…

And gasped, drawing back in horror.

“What is it?” He asked, His own smile replaced by a look of bewilderment.   Looking down, He checked His appearance, really noticing the huge, hideous scars on His hands and feet for the first time.  He nodded, understandingly.  “I know, the scars are ugly and quite shocking, but in time, we will hardly even notice they’re there.”

But she was shaking her head, backing away slowly.

“Darling, what is it?”  He asked again, taking a step towards her.

She stumbled five steps backwards.  “I’m sorry, I can’t…”

“Can’t what?”

“I can’t….marry you!”

“But…why not?  I love you, and you love Me.  You said yes to My proposal.”

“I know, but…  How can I explain…”  She couldn’t finish the thought or bear to look Him in His eyes.  “It’s just…Your scars disgust me,” she finally whispered.  “How will I explain them to anyone?  Everyone would stare at us, whispering, wondering.  It would be so…”  She again averted her eyes, her face heating with shame.

“But I went through all that for you. Because I love you,” He pleaded with her to understand.  “Who cares what people think, as long as we’re together?”

“It’s more than that, I mean…What You did for me was nice, but…”  For a long moment, she stared at the ground, as a tear slipped from her eye and slid down her cheek.  Finally, eyes still on the ground, she whispered, “I just…can’t do ‘forever.’  That’s my whole life!  There’s so much I want to do, so much I want to experience.”  She slowly backed away, shaking her head.  “I…I love You.  I really do, but…not enough for forever.  I’m sorry!”

Then she turned and fled down the hillside path.

“Wait!  Please!” He called, starting after her.  “I love you and everything I’ve promised you will more than make up for anything you may miss out on here.”

She halted and turned to look back, her conflicting desires playing across her face like a movie.

“Please, please,” He pleaded, “come to Me.  Stay with Me.  Marry Me. “

She hesitated, frozen in indecision while tears streamed down her face.  She took a step towards Him.

His heart gave a tiny leap of joy.  The next instant His blood ran cold within Him as a hooded figure stepped out from behind a tree and grabbed hold of her hand.  It was His enemy!  Even in the shadows of the hood he still recognized that ominously attractive face, and the mocking smile.  It sent a fresh slice of agony through His heart.

“Come, my love,” the enemy said to her as he pulled her around to face him.  “We have so much to do!  There is so much I want to show you!”  He started back down the path, coaxing her along gently yet insistently.

He had her full attention, so captivated was she.  She only hesitated one second more to look back over her shoulder at Him.  Then she followed the hooded enemy.

The choice was hers.  There was nothing more He could do.  He would not force her; for then, she would be unhappy.  Still, it cut His tender heart in two to watch her ride off into the sunset with His enemy.

Betrayed.

By one He loved so dearly.

And with His deepest enemy!

It was late when He finally made His way down the hill, His heart breaking with a pain greater than all He had felt before.

Advertisements

A Vibrant Life

What’s the essence of Christianity?  Think about your answer to that question for a moment.  What does it mean for you and me to be Christians?  Think of your answer to that too.  What does Christianity look like lived out?  Really consider that one.

After thinking about it, I’d describe Christianity as belonging to one person: the One who bought us back from death.  Real Christianity is not the result of a series of outward actions: the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, the activities you do, the food you eat, the things you watch, etc.  The Christ-life starts inside, when you give Jesus your heart.  But it doesn’t remain there.  It moves out.  It changes every aspect of your life.  Yes, the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, the activities you do, the food you eat, the things you watch, etc.  And it touches the people around you.

Remember Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed?  He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt. 13:31, 32, NKJV)

A mustard seed is really tiny.  Yet for starting out too small to provide even a decent bite for a bird, it becomes home to many birds.  This is how our Savior works.  Jesus starts inside our hearts, forgiving us, changing us, transforming us, nurturing us from newborn babies until we’ve grown up into men and women fit for heaven.

Jesus told another parable along the same lines.  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” (Matt. 13:33)  That little bit of leaven, mixed in with the bread dough can’t be removed.  It permeates the entire loaf.  The same with Jesus once we surrender our lives to Him.  He’s no longer a bystander on the edge of our lives, or a once-a-week visit to a steepled structure.  He’s real, living, present, active in every part of our lives.

This is what the Christian life looks like.  It’s dynamic, not static.

Now consider that in terms of the relationship between faith and works.

Faith is important, nay vital (I couldn’t resist!)  But it doesn’t stand alone.  Jesus intended it to be mixed with works, yet never with the idea that your works are earning you a spot in heaven.  Check out these two contrasting yet complimenting passages:

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  And he was called the friend of God.  You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.  Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14-26)

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.  Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.  Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:27-31)

“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!  For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:15-21)

To make it even more interesting, add love into the mix.  Just reading 1 Corinthians 13 alone makes it clear that even the best works without love are empty.  Yet check out what Jesus said about the connection between love and obedience to His law: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)  And He didn’t stop there; He repeated it again in verses 21 and 23.

Obedience is the outflow of love, not the other way around.  Obedience shows that we know God.  “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  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.” (1 John 2:3-6)

These passages are important because they help us understand how to live the Christian life as we prepare for life with our coming King.  Satan doesn’t want us to understand.  He doesn’t want us to be ready.  He wants us to be like the unfaithful servant in Matthew 24:48-51.  But God has made His truth known in His word.  So prayerfully take a look at these verses again and hear what God is saying to you.

My point is simple: by faith, the seed was planted in my heart and began to grow; the leaven was added to the lump of bread dough and mixed in.  The end result is a life of obedience to His will, the lifestyle of the King’s daughter in a foreign land.

The Basics ~ Adoption: Step 2

Step 2: Repent and Be Changed

What is repentance?  It is more than just saying you’re sorry for the things you’ve done wrong.  It is a conscious choice to turn away from doing those things.  This step is very important.  Repentance is where change begins.  Without it, your sins will bring you down to eternal death.  (Luke 13:3, 5.)  You see, sin is a fatal disease.  The only cure is found in Jesus.  He lived on Earth as a human, among humans.  He endured the same weaknesses and challenges we all endure, and He was tempted by Satan the enemy to give in to sin.  In fact, Jesus has been tempted in all the same ways you have been tempted, without failing even once! So He knows exactly how you feel when you are tempted to sin.  The Father didn’t give Him any extra special help that is not available to you.  (Hebrews 4:15.)  Jesus remained sinless, because the sacrifice for sin had to be completely pure and spotless.  If He hadn’t been, He couldn’t have died for our sins and you and I would be doomed to eternal death from this disease.

Jesus bought us back from the enemy at the price of His life.  When we accept this gift, we must leave behind the old life of sin and be changed by His power into His likeness.  This is very important!  He can’t bring us home unless this whole process is completed, because if we could bring even one sin with us into our heavenly home, it would become just as bad as or worse than this crazy world we live in right now.

If you have never asked Jesus to forgive your sins, let me give you the simple version of how this works:

You have sinned.  You realize that you have sinned and you are sorry that you did.  So you go to Jesus in prayer and confess your sins.  Maybe you don’t remember them all by name, but you know you’ve sinned and you tell Him so.  Then you apologize and ask Him to forgive you.

In heaven, there is a record in a book of all the things you’ve ever done, good and bad.  It is from this book that God will judge all people.  (Revelation 20:12.)  When you ask forgiveness of your sins, He erases them all from this book and writes your name in another book, the Book of Life.  Everyone whose name is in this Book is a candidate for heaven.  (Revelation 21:10, 27.)  
So when the Father forgives you of your sins, He doesn’t remember them anymore.  (Isaiah 43:25.)  Yes, you will still feel bad for what you’ve done, but don’t cling to the guilt.  You are forgiven, and He looks at you as if you hadnever sinned before!  And if you sin again, He is just waiting for you to repent and come back to Him, and He is more than happy to forgive you again and help you change.  But you mustn’t think you can just do whatever you want because He’ll always forgive you.  He can only take to heaven those who repent of their sins, are baptized, and are converted.

Where does baptism fit into all of this?  It is a public symbol of your commitment to God.  It shows that you accept Jesus’ sacrifice for you, and you want to follow in His footsteps, giving up your life to Him.  The act of baptism symbolizes your death to sin when you go under the water.  When you are raised up out of the water, it signifies the birth of a new you, a new creation in Christ.  The old you has died and a new you is resurrected the same way Jesus was resurrected.  (Romans 6:4; Ephesians 2:4-6; Colossians 2:12, 13; Galatians 3:26, 27.)  You are reborn, given a new chance to live your life differently than before.

Conversion means a changed life.  It involves turning to the worship of the one true God with your whole life and returning to loving and obeying Him.  This conversion takes place as you spend more and more time with God.

You may ask how you can spend time together with Him when you can’t see Him.  Let me explain.  Many years ago, God inspired some of His prophets, apostles, and others to write a guide book or text book of sorts to direct you through life (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16).  You guessed!  It’s called the Holy Bible, sometimes referred to as the scriptures or God’s Word.  Every word in it is God-inspired.  It has everything you need to know to pass the final test before the great Home-going.  Read and study God’s Book.  He’s put so much information in there to help you.  Read wisely and you will learn from the mistakes and experiences of some of His other children who’ve been adopted before you.  You will also learn all about Jesus, and how He lived so that you can follow in His footsteps.

God’s word speaks directly to you and your daily situations.  There are principles to direct you in every area of your life.  Your responsibility is to look for them.  They will change your life!  You will become more and more like Jesus, and more and more ready to live with Him in heaven.  But don’t just read God’s word; study it carefully every day.  As you do this, ask yourself, “What does this tell me about what my Father and Savior are like?” In this way, you’ll get to know the Father and the Son very well.

Also, talk to Him!  Continuously.  God never gets tired of hearing from you! In fact, He longsto hear from you.  There’s so much He can tell you, so much help He wants to offer!  Just ask Him for anything you need.  Anything.  True, He doesn’t give you everything you ask Him for.  Not everything you ask for is in your best interest.  Sometimes you ask for things that would do you more harm than good.  However, if it’s in your best interest, He is more than happy to supply it (1 John 5:14)!

When you talk to God, you can tell Him your deepest thoughts, desires, and secrets.  He cares about every single thing that has anything to do with you.

Another way you can learn about Him is by studying nature.  God’s creation gives you a view of His personality and character.  They show you how He feels about you.  You see, He thought of you when He created nature.  It’s not perfect as it was when He first made it, but some of its original beauty still shines through.  So when you take time to enjoy the glory of a sunrise or the tranquil beauty of a mountain stream, you can know that He made it with you in mind because He loves you.

Yet another way to learn about God is through the various experiences He permits in your life.  He knows that some of your experiences were difficult and even painful, and you wonder how He could allow them to happen to you if He loves you so much.  But all your experiences, the good and the bad, are meant to prepare you for Home.  Your experiences show you the differences in character between that of your Savior and that of the enemy, Satan.

It is important that you realize that Satan only seeks your destruction, no matter how “good” the things he offers seem to be.  God wants you to have life, and to have it abundantly (John 10:10).  Remember:  not one taint of sin can enter God’s Home, so your loyalty must lie with Him alone.