Unambiguous Love

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My Musing – In English, the word love can be a bit ambiguous.  I love chocolate. I love my mate.  I love my child.  Same word, different types/degrees of love.  In this text, Paul chose one of the four Greek words that are all translated love in English.  He used the word agape, which is a selfless, self-giving and unmerited love that God shows to humankind in sending his son as a suffering redeemer. (Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 14). San Francisco: Harper & Row.).

Selfless – “God demonstrates His own love for us.” Demonstrate means to show or express (a feeling or quality) by one’s actions.  He was under no obligation to do so other than His character and being demanded it.

Self-giving – “Christ died for us.”  It doesn’t get more self-giving than that.  It doesn’t get more demonstrative than that.

Unmerited – “While we were still sinners.”  Rebellious offenders (sinners) of what God demands (sinlessness) merit nothing but judgment.  Yet God offers forgiveness.  It was not if you do this (clean up your act) for me, then I will do this (offer forgiveness and salvation) for you.  That would not be a demonstration of love, it would be a demonstration of justice.  Through the sacrificial death of His Son, God found a way to simultaneously demonstrate both His “agape” love and His righteous justice in one act of grace.  “You see, at just the right time [while we were still sinners?], when we were still powerless [unable to do anything to change our sinfulness], Christ died for the ungodly [deserving eternal separation from God].” (Romans 5:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Show our appreciation by accepting this free gift.

 

Before God and Man

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My Musing – At first blush, this is a somewhat curious statement, at least to me.  If we strive to keep our conscience clear before God (a high standard indeed), why would we need to concern ourselves about man.  Wouldn’t satisfying the former, automatically satisfy the other?  It is clear that keeping our conscience clear before God is our top priority and that keeping our conscience clear before man should not take precedence.  But the former does not exclude the latter.

Paul states elsewhere to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of all people, and if possible, as far as it depends upon us, we should be a peace with all men. (Romans 12:17-18).  Man is fickle, while God is not.  So a clear conscience before God will not always satisfy man.  Especially if they do not have a relationship with Christ and their only picture of him comes from us.  But we must still strive to have a strive to have a clear conscience, “as far as it depends on us.

The first (and greatest) commandment is to love God (with heart, soul, mind and strength).  We need a clear conscience about that.  But is second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39). We need to keep our conscience clear about that as well.

My Advice – Sleep well with a clear conscience.

Grace In The Endzone

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My Musings – Perhaps the most universally known Bible verse (at least by football fans) of all time.

He loved – before we loved Him.  No guarantee we ever would.  Him knowing that many never would.

He gave – at the greatest cost imaginable.  While we were still sinners.  No fine print.  No purchase required.

Whoever – no one is disqualified.  Not just the elite.  No exclusions apply.  That means you and me.

Believes – that’s all there is to it. Pure grace.  Maybe it’s because the offer is so unbelievable that so many will not believe, will not accept.  Maybe it’s because we think that free is actually too costly – we don’t have to pay anything for it. But we must be willing to give some things up (our sinful lifestyle).  Yes, that is part of believing, but look what we get in the exchange.

Eternal life – That’s forever.  Heaven.  With God. Pure bliss.

My Advice – Believe.  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)

 

Take Heart!

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My Musings – I wrote in my book “Got Spiritual Milk?” (see Store), that justification is a one-time event (the starting line), sanctification is a life-long process (the journey) and glorification is our ultimate destination (the finish line).  In the verse above, Jesus states that if we would come after Him (the justification part) we must take up our cross daily (the sanctification part) and follow Him (the glorification part).

While the justification part is a free gift, taking up our cross daily is a graphic illustration of the cost of becoming like Jesus. Crucifixion was one of the cruelest and barbaric forms of execution ever devised.  A medical doctor provides the following  physical description:

The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.

The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of his feet.

As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.

Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.

It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.

He can feel the chill of death creeping through is tissues. . .Finally he can allow his body to die.

All this the Bible records with the simple words, “And they crucified Him.” (Mark 15:24).

What wondrous love is this?

— Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D. in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8

Somehow, the crosses we have to bear in our journey of sanctification here below, do not seem so awful after all – no comparison to what Jesus had to go through, and which bought our justification.  Paul also tells us the they are not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed (Romans 8:18) — our ultimate glorification.

My Advice – Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV 1984). Jesus had the ultimate victory (overcame) over His cross.  Because of this, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome ours as well.  So take heart!

 

 

From the Senseless to the Absurd

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My Musings – Seems like a simple question with an obvious and expected answer (rhetorical).  And yet, so many chase after the “shiny” things that life affords in the here and now, that will not last and cannot be taken out of this life, yet neglect the more important matter of where they will spend eternity. This is illogical (senseless or unreasonable) at best, and foolish (absurd or ridiculous) at worst.

If one at least acknowledges even the slightest possibility of an afterlife with rewards (heaven) and punishment (hell), then it would be illogical to ignore or neglect carefully considering the possibilities.  Because even with a slight possibility the stakes are still way to high (your eternal soul).

If one believes in such an afterlife, it would be foolish to ignore, neglect or postpone putting one’s affairs in order.  Because there is no guarantee that an opportunity, ignored, neglected or postponed will ever present itself again.

My Advice – If you are a sceptic, it costs nothing to at least consider the possibility.  But it could be very costly indeed to not consider it (forfeit of soul).  Consider it.  If you are an “intellectual” believer you’re still 18 inches away (the distance between the head and the heart) from not forfeiting your soul.  Missing it by even a fraction of an inch is still a miss.  Don’t miss it.

What Are We Seeking?

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My Musings – To seek first means to give priority (something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives).  Immediately prior to this verse, Jesus was talking about the things of this life that people give attention to – food, shelter, clothing.  Things that most would consider necessities, although there are still way too many that lack all of these in sufficient quantity (if at all) to not be considered in want.  Others have much more than they need.  Few are content with what they have.  But no matter what category one falls into, Jesus insists that there is something much more important – our relationship with our Creator.

Our life here on earth is fleeting (a mere mist of vapor) and of little consequence when compared to all of eternity before us.  But what we do with Christ while here on earth has tremendous consequences in terms of what eternity will be for us.  The lack of  the so-called necessities of this life will pale in comparison to an eternal separation from God in the torment of Hell (as politically incorrect as it is to even mention such a thing) if we never get our priorities straight while here. Likewise, the accumulation of things in this this life will be soon forgotten if the face of such suffering.  Whether a life of abundance or want, all need Christ.  If you seek Him, He (and His Kingdom and Righteousness) will be found.  In His Kingdom, all these things will be given as well.

My Advice –  Seek Him (Christ) while He may be found, because He came to seek (and to save) you. This is not me speaking in arrogance, although many will still believe so.  It is me speaking in compassion to those who do not have a relationship with Christ.  Because once upon a time, I was there as well.

Walking or Stumbling

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My Musings – The righteous (those cleansed by the blood of Christ) walk in the ways of the Lord because their spiritual eyes were opened by their faith in Christ. He is the light of the world, and through Him the righteous can see the way of the Lord illuminated before them.

The rebellious stumble over the ways of the Lord because, though they have eyes to see, they do not see.  They are spiritually blind.  To them, the Gospel is a stumbling-block.

My Advice – If you have not already done so, open your eyes to the truth of the Gospel.  He is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him].” John 14:6, NIV 1984)