Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love is From God

Love is From God.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:7-21 (ESV)

Only God can give a person the desire to do good for someone else. Love for someone else is an indication that God dwells within.

Love is the desire to give life to another. God's love for His creation of man and woman was seen when He sent His only Son into the world, providing the only remedy for our doom, allowing us to be forgiven and justified, giving us life.

Love for God moves us to embrace Him as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in human flesh. Our love for God cannot hope to give any measure of life to the Life Giver, but we can exult in His excellence. We can gladly trust Him. We can praise Him and make much of Him before others.

Love for God moves us to share in His love for others. Love for God joins with Him in love for others.

Hatred is to detest another, to testify against another. Hatred requires one to deny God's love, to act as though God has no love for another. Hatred moves a person to persecute another, calling upon God as a witness to the guilt and wickedness of another person.

How can I call on God as a witness of another's wickedness without bringing my own wickedness to the stand? How can I deny God's love for another person without denying His love for me?

To love God and rejoice in His love for me, requires me to rejoice in His love for others. To do otherwise makes me a liar.

Image courtesy of Konrad Mostert.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Holy and Righteous One

The Holy and Righteous One

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. Acts 3:13-15 (ESV)

To this point in Luke's book of Acts of the Apostles, Jesus has been named Lord and Christ. In his second great instance of preaching, Peter is speaking to Jews at the temple. They've all gathered in amazement, responding to the miraculous healing of a lame man. Peter is even more descriptive of the glory of Jesus.

Peter begins by calling upon the Almighty God, using references that are most meaningful to devout Jews: "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers."

Then, Peter describes Jesus as the Servant of this Great God of the Jews.

SERVANT: pais (a boy or girl, a child, a slave or servant, especially a a minister to a king); from "paio" (to hit or sting, as a scorpion)

The Greek word for servant originated with the word for a sting. An inattentive servant, especially a young boy or girl, was effectively brought back to task with a stinging flick of a cane or strap. Parents used similar discipline to correct their children. Literally, parents and masters referred to children as "They-Which-Need-A-Spanking"!

This was the word used to describe Jesus.

But in God's view, this Servant was His Chosen and Beloved:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him." Isaiah 42:1 (ESV)

Matthew later quotes the prophet Isaiah in direct connection with Jesus:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him." Matt 12:18 (ESV)

Servanthood is closely connected with the ceremony of anointing with oil. Luke will later describe Jesus as God's "holy servant" whom God anointed:

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed - for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed." Acts 4:26-27 (ESV)

Luke was quoting King David, writing prophetically of Jesus in Psalms 2.

To be a servant of God is radically different and gloriously more wonderful than to be a servant of an earthly king.

What do you think? Consider the work of which some servants in our society must do: cleaning toilets and sewers, lifting and washing the elderly, washing dishes, dumping garbage and more. In what sense has Jesus gladly endured menial work that has resulted in great glory?

Holy and Righteous One

"But you denied the Holy and Righteous One." Acts 3:14 (ESV)

HOLY: hagios (sacred, pure, blameless, religious or consecrated); from hagos (an awful thing)

RIGHTEOUS: dikaios (equitable, innocent, holy); from dike (self-evidently right, justice); from deiknyo (to show)

Jesus is not one of the many holy and righteous people who have ever lived...Jesus is The Holy and Righteous One. There is no other. This phrase is the same as saying that Jesus is God, and no other person can claim that.

The Jews who saw Jesus in the flesh saw Him as worthless, less valuable even than a murderer. They denied Him, speaking of him as a non-person, negating any claim to esteem or value Him. They preferred a criminal to the Christ.

What do you think? Meditate for a moment on the meaning of the words holy and righteous. Imagine a typical day for you, from waking up, through your day, and to the moment of laying down to sleep. In what does it make a difference for you that Jesus is, and always has been, and always will be, completely and utterly holy and righteous?

The Author of Life

"You killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead." Acts 3:15 (ESV)

The King James Version translates Author as "Prince."

AUTHOR: archegos (a chief leader); from arche (a commencement or chief) and ago (to lead, bring, drive, go, pass, induce); from archomai (to commence); from archo (to be first in rank or power)

"Author" does not seem to convey the full meaning of the Greek word. Even the word "prince" conveys something less. In my mind, "prince" brings an image of a rich, obscenely good-looking, self-indulgent high-society celebrity in whom the king is deeply disappointed or despairing of ever amounting to anything. I think I've seen too many animated movies!

The Greek word means the chief leader. Not merely one leader amongst many, but The One Chief Leader. Jesus is the One Who leads, the One Who is First in esteem and power.

Jesus is the Great Leader of All Life.

This is why God raised the Man Jesus from the dead. Jesus the Man was Jesus the Utterly Holy and Righteous One, the Leader of All Life, the Beloved Servant of God. No grave could contain Him!

Jesus is not a long-dead symbol of a religious tradition that seeks to control and form society.

Jesus is not merely one of many good people who have captured the hearts of people of little minds.

Jesus is God. He is God in human form, invested with all righteousness, holiness, power, and sovereignty.

This is the One of Whom we are witnesses.

What do you think? What distinguishes biblical Christianity from all other religions?

Image courtesy of Zsolt Zatrok

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Simple Statement of Faith

A Simple Statement of Faith

"Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?" Acts 3:1-2

POWER: dynamis (force, power, miracle); from dynamai (to be able or possible)

PIETY: eusebeia (reverence for God); from eu (good or well) and sebo (to revere or adore)

Peter refuses to take credit for healing this man. The surprise and wonder of the crowd made it plain to Peter that the people were worshipping him and John, attempting to make much of them, praising and adoring their miraculous power and position with God.

The man who had been healed, however, had no such misplaced worship. He immediately had begun to praise God for the miracle of healing.

No special power or ability or even goodness of Peter contributed to this miraculous healing. The only thing Peter contributed was a simple statement of faith.

God as Creator and Sovereign Almighty Lord planned to have this lame man, from birth to maturity, live as a disabled, unproductive burden on society, waiting for the moment when a simple statement of faith would provide the perfect time for God to radically change his life.

The simple statement of faith required of Peter little strength, little intellect, and little piety. Yet God waited a lifetime for that simple statement before releasing His power for the lame man.

The waiting, and the simple statement of faith, were designed to glorify Jesus Christ as God.

But the power of God was not in the statement. The power of God was in Jesus Christ. The statement was a way to publicly give credit where credit was due.

That was the reason for the crowd's misplaced worship: they either ignored Peter's statement of faith in Christ, or they hadn't heard it in the first place.

Idol worship, atheism and worthless religion are the direct result of failing to credit God as Supreme in every way, and failing to recognize Jesus Christ as God.

What do you think? What examples can you give, either in your own personal life or in human society as a whole, of failure to give the credit that is due to Jesus Christ?

Image courtesy of Alberto Seveso

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blessing, not Cursing

Blessing, not Cursing

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." Romans 12:14 (ESV)

BLESS: eulogeo (to speak well of); from eu (good) and logos (something said, a topic, reasoning, a computation); from lego (to lay forth or relate in words)

PERSECUTE: dioko (to pursue, persecute); from dio (to flee)

CURSE: kataraomai (to execrate or to doom); from katar (imprecation, execration); from kata (down) and ara (prayer, as lifted to Heaven); from airo (to lift)

Bitterness and hate oozes from the heart, poisoning even our words. Perhaps the very best that could be hoped for from the heart of bitterness might be silence...cold, stony silence. But it's still an expression of bitterness and hate.

More commonly, every sentence spoken by a bitter heart will have a message, implied or directly stated, of vengeance and a desire to hurt or destroy. A curse is a prayer, a desire of the heart lifted up to God Almighty, asking for God to humiliate and destroy someone offensive. A curse-filled prayer is a natural response to an offense. Society restricts personal actions of revenge and justice. God Himself warns us of usurping His right to determining appropriate punishment and final judgement. So, a Christian who has been offended, has little opportunity to vent frustration and anger. A Christian with a bitter heart can only shut their lips tightly in bitter resentment, or ask God to do the punishing.

But Jesus describes a mind renewed by His Spirit of mercy and grace. He offers a complete transformation, from natural bitterness to supernatural grace. He describes a heart that blesses, rather than curses, an enemy. He says that a mind overwhelmed with His Spirit will speak well of an enemy before God. A Christian is to pray for good things for someone who has offended them.

With the healing influence of God's Holy Spirit, I will pray for good things for someone who has hurt me or humiliated me. I will tell others to pray for good things for the person who has offended me. I will turn my memories of hurt into prayers for healing for the sick, sinful soul who betrayed my trust.

I will bless my enemy.

After all, that is exactly what Jesus does for me when I ignore, reject, deny and disobey Him.

Image courtesy of Sias van Schalkwyk

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pressed Down and Overflowing

Pressed Down and Overflowing

"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." Luke 6:38 (ESV)

God rewards those who give.

God Himself is kind to the ungrateful and the evil (Luke 6:35). We glorify God when we act, even in small ways, like Him.

If we give love to others, especially to enemies, God gives us much more love.

If we give mercy, if we withhold biased judgement or condemnation, whatever good we give to others, God will give good back to us. His reward will be multiplied times more that the small that we give.

Imagine buying a cup of rice to give to a hungry child. The rice merchant himself is a kind man, and he sees my generosity and compassion. He calls me back to the counter and fills a cup full. Before giving me the cup of rice, he presses it down, settles it down with shaking, pours more rice into the cup, the cup overflowing with rice. And he hands me the cup with a smile.

If I forgive someone who has hurt me, if I give up any desire to judge or condemn someone for their offense against me, if I offer merciful forgiveness, God will reward me. He will reward me with that same forgiveness for my offenses against Him, multiplied many times over.

My goodness does not earn goodness is as a filthy rage compared to His goodness. But my goodness, as weak and inadequate as it is, demonstrates my dependence upon Him for mercy and forgiveness. If I recognize and accept and depend upon His merciful, graceful forgiveness, I will gladly extend what little kindness I have towards someone who has offended me.

Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian