Why Jesus? Why did He come from heaven to earth a long time ago? Why did He come and live among us and die in our place? When we consider most of the world is moving away from the God of the universe because of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, many others and simply no religion; it begs the question, “why would the all-knowing God come to earth in the person of Jesus Christ?”
John 3:16 and Matthew 5:17 paint a picture of what God is doing through His Son:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17 ESV
These passages set up the fact God not only wants to sacrifice His Son to meet a requirement we never could, but also give us the reward of His meeting that requirement. Then why not just give us the reward? Why go through all the trouble of being born, living a hard life, dying a terrible death and then being resurrected?
There are many passages that speak of a glorious inheritance God has prepared. Ephesians 1:18 (ESV) quotes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance…”
Let’s say you have an uncle and he is a very rich man. He has decided to include you in his will and leave you a monetary trust as an inheritance. Your uncle has chosen to do this because you are in good standing with him. You met a requirement he had for you as a nephew or niece. Maybe you were obedient and genuinely loved your uncle. This love for your uncle was easily seen in your actions and words toward him. As a result, you will receive an inheritance, but only after your uncle has passed away. At the time of his death his will, will be executed and sometime thereafter you will receive the inheritance he has promised to you.
With God, no one has met the requirement He had established. Romans 3:23 (ESV) states, “All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” So, God in His wisdom and never failing grace had a plan. He would step out of heaven, come to us, live with us, hurt with us, suffer with us and ultimately die for us. Jesus would be the fulfilment of the requirement that was necessary to gain the inheritance of God.
The crazy thing is… He lived a perfect life: no mistakes, no screw ups, no bad words, no drugs, no hypocrisy, no lies, NO SIN! He did this and could have taken the reward for himself, but instead he died a criminal’s death for you. He did the work and we get the reward.
You see, for there to be an inheritance; someone had to earn it and someone had to die. That was God’s plan executed through the life, death and resurrection of His Son.
So, here we are with the questions: Why did He come from heaven to earth a long time ago? Why did He come and live among us and die in our place?
The simple answer is You! He came for you! He came for me! He came for us! As a result, Jesus can make the statement He makes in John 14:6 (ESV) when He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus is the only One who came for us!
This Easter, instead of asking how Jesus can be the only way, we should be joyful someone loves us enough that He came to where we are and sacrificed Himself for us. He loves us enough to pass on an inheritance we did not earn and we don’t deserve. This love of God is so true, He even has given us the freedom to choose Him or not.
We live in such a divisive world. We see politics and religion play such a significant role in many of our lives, causing a divide like not seen before. We see this in homes, workplaces, social spaces and even in church. Ultimately no one wins. We are a broken people, a broken nation. There are so many groups, so many divisions, so many parties and so many causes. These factions have their own agenda and most causing disunity. We’ve made it about issues and what must be and what must not, according to a lower standard… ours!
We fight amongst ourselves. Friends turn against friends and family against family. And truly, when it is all said and done and we move into forever; will it have mattered? Would it have been worth all the heartache and pain caused to each other? Do these issues and earthly concerns matter from an eternal point of view? Don’t misunderstand this outlook for one of disregard for our current concerns or situations, that we should do nothing nor participate. No, one must simply weigh the causes we participate in and decisions we make from a more eternal perspective and then act accordingly.
When Jesus stepped out of heaven a long time ago and left His throne to be born in a humble manger; something very significant happened that is so overlooked. God in the person of Jesus Christ, stepped over to the other side. He could have stayed in heaven and just took on an attitude much like we do today when we don’t agree with someone. We tend to become indignant towards others and their point of view. We don’t engage constructively to listen, but instead we shout louder and tune each other out.
Unlike us, God came to where we were. He stepped over to the other side to engage. He humbled Himself to reach out to us. In our broken condition, He came to hear our hearts, to offer a message of hope, to offer healing, to offer a relationship like never before between God and His creation… to offer reconciliation we didn’t deserve.
In the Bible, 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5 tells us in verse 14 Christ’s love compels us. It goes on in verse 16 to tell us because of Christ’s love we should not think of anyone like everyone else, instead we should look at everyone from God’s point of view. What does that mean to us? The God of the World, who wants for nothing and can conjure anything just by speaking, desires relationship with you. He proved it by leaving heaven to come to our side. By doing so, God knocked the wall down and bridged the gap we created through our rebellion and hard hearts to make room, an opportunity for reconciliation through forgiveness He did not have to give. He looked at us with compassion and love. We should do the same for each other.
My hope is we can begin to follow the example God has given us through the life of His Son. Maybe we can take on that attitude and be the first to bridge the gap in someone’s life, to offer hope and an opportunity for healing. If we can just stop and think from a forever perspective, our outlook just might change and we might have the opportunity to impact others in positive way with the same love God demonstrates towards us.
Jesus brought that message of hope with Him when He left heaven to come over to our side a long time ago. That message of hope is still available for us today. It still changes people! This Easter, follow the example of Jesus and change your perspective and make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.
14 For Christ’s love compels us…. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2nd Corinthians 14,16, 17, 18-21
The chaos of today's politics is the maturing of what began when man rejected God and chose a king over God. The Scriptures explain that with the coronation of a king in the place of God, man would lose a portion of the fruit of his labor and his liberties (1 Samuel 8:10-18). Do you realize how much richer and better off we would be if God were king? How much more free we would be?
Instead the nation of Israel begin a tradition that has evolved into what has become politics today for the world. When we let God rule our lives, we are in the best hands. The Creator of the Universe has designed things to work a specific way. When we go against that design, chaos ensues. Hence, the condition of the world today!!! Now that things are maturing, we are seeing things degrade quickly. This coming election is not just about who is President of the United States, it is more about who is king of your life.
In Isaiah, we see a pattern when kings of God's people leaned on other countries for protection and alliances, rather than on God. Each time they chose man, they paid dearly. And not because God was punishing them, but because they had to deal with the consequences of their choice. The very, very few times they chose to rely on God, they saw miracles accomplished that only could be done by the Hand of God. When we trust God and His promises, He is faithful! Unlike us...
Ultimately, the nation of Israel chose man and lost their freedom and their country. They were held in captivity for 70 years. Finally, when they were released; the people and the country of Israel would never be the same.
Through history, we see man repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Choosing wrong and paying the price. Today, we continue to choose wrong and if we continue to choose wrong, we will continue to lose our freedoms and ultimately our country... repeating the pattern of history.
This is not a push for any candidate, as neither meet the standard when it comes to the requirements of Holiness... in fact, none of us meet God's requirements of Holiness. Each and all of us have fallen short. And that is why God sent His Son into this world. This is a push for God! Again, this coming election is not just about who is President of the United States, it is more about who is king of your life. Who to your trust? Who will be faithful to you? With that, we need to consider the condition of our nation and how it got there... without God! With that, consider how we can change that... with God. What we need is God as King!!!
What matters more than who has been in the White House the last 8 years and who will be in the White House for the next 4 years is who is on the throne of your heart!
1 Samuel 8:10-18 10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”
I was asked the other day, "What is your church doing for Pastor Appreciation Month?" My answer, "Nothing!" Perplexed, another question came regarding another tradition of the recent church, "What about Homecoming, when is that planned?" My replied, "Never!" Even more perplexed, I now had the attention of the person asking because their response to my answers was, "I don't think I would like your church."
Obviously that response saddens my heart and for those of you reading this, let me give some explanation to why I am not wrapped up in doing those things. First of all, being a pastor/minister is not my job; there is calling on my life to be in this role and while I ran from it for some time, I have embraced the position God has put me in. I don't do it for appreciation or adoration. Yes, I need to be able to support my family and yes I am paid a salary. I am extremely thankful for God's provision because there was a time I was not paid or if I were, it was very little. My point regarding this matter is this; our attention, our adoration, and appreciation should be directed to our Lord. I don't want to be a distraction to that because I want an envelope of money, a vacation cruise get-away or even the adoration and praise of my congregation. Moreover, I don't want to be elevated to a position above that of my Lord. I am merely the steward of the flock, God is the owner. Therefore, I had better take care of this task His way because I will have to give an account.
Now for the matter of Homecoming and all other traditions we have in the church. There was a time I was caught up in the fanfare of the things we do in church and I did look forward to them. I recalled all the effort and time that went into planning these events, that sometimes would be scheduled months in advance. I remember the focus and money that would go into making it a "Big" to do. Committees were formed whose sole purpose was planning and organization of these events. These are all find things and I don't want to sound like I am offended by it all... but I am. As I grow older and seek to know God more intimately and strive to do want He wants ("not my will, by yours" attitude), I am offended by anything that would distract me or anyone who claims the name of Christ from the one thing that He commanded of all of His followers. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"( Matthew 28:19-20).
Maybe we get so caught up in the traditions we have created because it make us feel better about doing church, instead of doing the Gospel. Maybe disobedience to the Great Commission is easier when we feel we are doing busy work for the kingdom God never asked us to do. Yes, it is true these things may be appealing to a lot of people, but I am not in it for what people like, I am in it for what God wants. I don't want to be part of the distortion or the distraction that prevents the Gospel from going forward. Now before you think I am speaking high and mighty, let me throw this out; I have not always got it right when it comes to the Gospel. I have been caught up in many things we do in church that have nothing to do with the Gospel. I now test everything against God's Word. If it lines up keep it up, if it doesn't...bye, bye! There are so many things happening inside of our gatherings that have absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound legalistic; but the truth is, the things we do so often keep the very people we are trying to reach from being reached. Church can look more like a club than a place for the broken and hurting.
Another point we need to be careful of, is the complete opposite of tradition. We now see a growing trend of new more modern, contemporary churches appealing to the masses with a cool and relevant model. These new "contemporary" churches seem to be going against the grain of traditionalism and that's not necessarily a bad thing as want to reach as many people with the Gospel as possible. However, both seem to have their own set of traditions. The more I see what the church has been and is becoming, the more I realize both models are filled with idolatry. We do things in church services and outside that we can't live without. The only thing we should not be able to live without is God, not a particular model of how we think we should things in our gatherings.
So, what are we teaching those watching, particularly our children. Are we raising the next generation of complacency or a generation that will stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and go share it? Test everything and see how it lines up with God's Word. Then ask whether or not it furthers the purpose of the Gospel. Ask if it fulfills the Great Commission? Whatever you settle on, make sure it the Gospel that Jesus died for you to have, and the Gospel He commanded you to share.
I get a lot of push back on the subject and I am sure this post may cause a few waves, but that okay if it creates a healthy discussion on the topic. We are currently in a series on God's Spirit (Holy Spirit). This series has created some good discussion as we gain a better understanding of the most often neglected and/or mis-represented part of the Holy Trinity. One discussion has been on worship and what does real worship look like? This is an excellent questions, but before we start looking at potential answers; let's start by asking some other questions.
Have you ever been frustrated when on a Sunday morning the best "so called" worshipers leave church and live a very un-Christian life the remainder of the week? What does singing a song have to do with worship? And if we have a good worship time at church, does it impact every other part of our lives?
Please do not misunderstand me, I am not diminishing the importance of this part of our service or even downplaying it. However, when we have a better understanding of what we are and are not doing, it helps us to move into a deeper place with God.
This part of a service to me is a celebration as we praise God for all that He is, what is doing and what He will be doing in our lives. God deserves our praise and adoration. He is God and has provided His Son Jesus as an atonement for our sins. That alone and nothing else deserve our praise. In Luke 19:40, Jesus makes this statement..."if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." So, praise to our God is a very important part of what we do. Worship holds an even more important part.
One of my favorite Scriptures is Romans 12:1-2. This Scripture gives a very true interpretation of what worship to God should look like. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."
Your life... Ahhhh... That's how we worship God, through our lives. Our lives are to be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God... This is YOUR TRUE AND PROPER WORSHIP. My take on that Scripture goes like this, "Because Jesus intentionally died for me, I will intentionally live for Him." And that doesn't just mean when it is easy or convenient to be a Christian, but every moment of my life. In all honesty, I wish I could say I get it right a 100% of the time. The truth is... all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God. That includes me. So, by no means am I placing myself on a pedestal, but thank God for His grace.
When we put so much focus on something that we call worship on Sunday and downplay what we are supposed to do the rest of week, it is no wonder we stumble. When there is more emphasis on a small part of our worship experience like singing songs and less on living for Christ, we find ourselves in trouble. Real Worship is how you live your daily life. Sunday is a celebration of God we do corporately, but it does not take the place of sacrificial living for God. That happens moment by moment. On a side note, I believe when we examine our life actions and decisions on moment by moment basis; we do a better job of living a life that is holy and pleasing to God.
So what would worship service look like on Sunday's if there were no music? Hmmmm... Let's celebrate and praise our God together... corporately... and let's let our lives be the worship He deserves. A life lived in the reflection of His glory, mirroring Jesus Christ!
We are living in a world that has lost something so important. It is obvious when you look around at the depravity taking place, we have lost something. We have lost something very important, something that is needed to keep us from driving over the edge. We have lost our identity.
Looking at the news recently and the hype around a certain person and the change they have made to themselves is very concerning. While media and advocates shout aloud about self identity and letting people be who they were meant to be... we overlook the fact, they have actually lost themselves.
What you see happening in the world around us is simply what happens when people reject the image they were created in... "Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26.
We are created in God's image. When we reject that image and look to other places to satisfy that lose, we are lost ourselves. Nothing, absolutely nothing can fill that void except for Christ. When we reject the image of Christ in our lives, what replaces it can be scary, fake, temporary, ingenues, etc., and the result is a want for something more because we are never satisfied. And further we fall into decay and a reprobate mind as we look to all the wrong sources for our wholeness and completion ("Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done..." Romans 1:28).
Only one thing can satisfy... His name is Jesus the Christ. "For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring." Acts 17:28
So without him how do we live? How do we have our being? We can't! We are meant to be His... "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him." Colossian 1:16
If you reject the image you were created in... you lose your identity!