19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
— Ephesians 3:19 NLT
God is love and everything that we experience is designed to show us His love. In the rough patches, we don’t feel that that statement is true because we don’t and never will understand the greatness of His love. God wants us to strive to get to the point that we realize His only motivation is His love for us. He wants us to be like Christ whose only motivation for dying on the cross for our sins was love. Not every lesson we learn will be enjoyable. I am sure that being persecuted, beaten and hung on a cross was not an enjoyable experience for Jesus but it was necessary to show God’s marvelous love for us. Learning to love the “unlovable” and those that mistreat us is a necessary lesson, not only for our completeness but to show others the immeasurable love of God. Jesus showed His love for us by giving His life for all of us while we were still sinners. We must show that same kind of love to those around us each day. As Paul says in the passage above (and I paraphrase) God places the Holy Spirit in our hearts and our roots must grow down into God’s love which will enable us to show that love in every situation.
31 Jesus answered, “So now you believe?
— John 16:31 NCV
If Jesus asked us that question today, could we truthfully answer “Yes, Lord, I truly believe.”? The disciples had spent the better part of three years with Jesus. They walked with Him, talked with Him, ate with Him and yet, it is only now that they confess that they believe that Jesus came from God. We might think this to be very strange. Yet, how many times did we hear the story of Jesus from people that we believed and respected, yet we did not accept Him as our Savior? In my teenage years, I went to the altar and had a very real emotional experience while I was kneeling there. Yet, when I left that building, my thought patterns and lifestyle were unchanged. Looking back at that experience years later, I realized that I had not truly accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. It would be years later before I truly repented and turned to Jesus with all my heart. True repentance will make a change in our thinking and in our lifestyle. Will it keep us from ever sinning again? No, the flesh will win some battles, but our reponse to the conviction of the Holy Spirit will always be to turn back to Jesus and ask for His forgiveness. And He will always be there with open arms, waiting to forgive us and restore to our salvation and His peace and joy.
2 Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. — Psalm 96:2 NLT
God has a plan and a a purpose for each one of us. The ultimate goal for each of those plans is to glorify God. We glorify God by proclaiming the good news that Jesus saves. We can do this by teaching, preaching or simply living a lifestyle that shows others how much Jesus means to us and what He has done for us. God has never called anyone to do anything without equipping them and training them. The way we walk and talk is observed by those around us. We talk to others about ball games, movies we have seen, places we have been to and books that we have read. We share experience after experience with them, but we never touch on the most important experience that we have had. We never mention anything to them about when we met Jesus and all the things he has done for us since. Yes, we occassionally share that with our Christian brothers and sisters, but when we are talking to others, do we mention the name of Jesus? It isn’t alwas necessary to quote Bible verses to people. Sometimes, we just need to tell them what Jesus has done for us. Anytime, the name of Jesus is mentioned, a decision has to be made; will we accept HIm or reject HIm? Just allow the Holy Spirit to guide you and your lifestyle and testimony will be effective.
42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. — Luke 22:42, 43 NLT
As we read about all the miracles that Jesus performed while He was here on earth we sometimes forget and need to be reminded that He, like us, was fully human. He did all of His works as a man, not as God. He even told us that He could do nothing in and of Himself but that He could only do the works of the Father.(John 5:19). We are told by the writer of Hebrews that even though Jesus was the Son of God, He still offered prayers and pleadings to the One who could rescue Him from death (Hebrews 5:8). Jesus knew and understood His mission because He had been in on the planning session that occurred before the foundations of the earth were laid. But in the flesh, He was not looking forward to the experience of being separated from His Father for the first and only time in His life. Separated because when He took our sins upon Himself, the Father could not look at Him or comfort Him in any way. While Jesus was in the flesh as a man, God sent Moses and Elijah to talk with Him about His death on the Cross (Mount of Transfiguration, Luke 9:31). As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, God sent an angel to strengthen Him. What we need to realize is that God does the same thing for us. If we listen carefully and heed His words, we will find that there is nothing that happens to us that He has not carefully prepared us to bear.
Jesus lived every day knowing the cruel death that awaited Him on the cross. Yet, He set His face toward Jerusalem and never turned back. Do we live every day prepared to die for what we know is true? If we do, then we can die prepared to live forever and that knowledge should remove any fear of death that we have.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Eph. 4:4-8 NIV
Though the official day of Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year, we need to continue to let that attitude of gratefulness rule in our hearts and lives on a daily basis. We are fast approaching the season that we will be celebrating the greatest Gift of all, so we have every reason to continue in our celebration of thanksgiving and remembrance of all that God has done and continues to do for us. We should continue to rejoice and cast our cares on the Lord by presenting them to Him through our prayers and petitions. If we do this, we will find that peace that transcends all human understanding. We need to keep our focus on Jesus, who is the total embodiment of all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Think about such things, especially when satan tries to put thoughts in our heads that would destroy the peace that Jesus died for us to have. We have the Prince of Peace Himself as our constant companion, learn to lean on Him and experience the joy of total dependence on our Lord and Savior.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4 NIV
We love reading those verses that make us feel good, like Romans 8:28, Phil 4:13, John 10:10 and John 3:16. Those are great verses that encourage us by letting us know that God is good and everything is going to be okay. But those verses can seem pretty hollow when we feel like God has deserted us and we are all alone in this evil world. It is hard for us to understand how God, who is love, can allow bad things to happen to His children. When these times come, we need to remember that all we can see is “now”, but God sees and knows all about the future. He allows testing so that we can know where we are on our journey. He already knows but we need to know so that we do not become puffed up and prideful. Jesus warned us that in this world we would be offended and tested, so, it should come as no surprise when we are. Our Lord and Savior was tested and tempted in every way possible. He understands our pain better than we do. We should never deny that we are in pain or that we are sick and hurting. We need to admit our weaknesses and ask God to bring us through this time of testing. We need to persevere so that we can become mature and complete, fulfilled in Christ Jesus. We don’t want to hear “count it all joy” while we are in the process, but after the test is concluded, we can look back on the experience and see that Jesus carried us through the whole process. The joy comes from knowing who we serve and that He loves us so much that He will allow nothing in our lives that He doesn’t give us strength to overcome. We are to “count it all joy”, not because of the situation, but in spite of the situation. We can’t be overcomers and conquerors if we never face situations that require us to overcome or conquer.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delightin weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Cor. 12:9, 10 NIV
4 Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. 5 And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. 6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is. 7 Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. 8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.–1 John 3:4-10 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the Way.
A child of God is anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. When we do that, our sins are forgiven and we become a new creation. We are filled with God’s light and where there is light, there can be no darkness. Does this mean that if we sin or fail that we are no longer God’s children? Not at all, each of us will fail at times. The question is not about a single sin, but a lifestyle of sin. If our salvation experience does not change our lifestyle then we need to question whether it was a real life-changing event or merely an emotional experience that we had. Don’t be deceived, God is faithful and just. Getting saved is a rational, logical experience. There may be emotions and feelings involved, but the true experience is a decision that we make to trust our souls and our future to Jesus. If we have done this, then there will be changes in our lifestyle. Some immediately, some as we mature in our walk with Christ. Our lives will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!–Phil. 3:8-11 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the way.
There is absolutely no action or good work that we can do that will save our souls. Our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to the righteousness of Jesus. So, living good lives, doing good deeds, and obeying the law are useless for salvation. Sooner or later, we all have to kneel before Jesus, confess our sins, repent, take up our cross and follow Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith, lest any of us should brag that we have somehow saved ourselves. We must share in His suffering and death to experience the power that raised Jesus from the dead. When we do this, our hearts will be broken because of His suffering for us. But they will soon be filled with joy unspeakable because His Spirit abides in us and we will participate in His resurrection. We are in Christ and He is in us: therefore, we are totally immersed in Him. One day soon, we will be like Him! Hallelujah!
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.–Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT)
God is waiting to show you the way.
If we follow Paul’s advice, we will pray and be thankful for all things that God has done for us. We must continually guard our thoughts and the desires of our hearts. We need to focus on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, excellent and worthy of praise. Then we will become God-conscious. Witnessing for Jesus will be a natural outflow of this kind of thinking. Our actions will be Christ-centered and people will know that we have something they don’t have.
If we let our guard down, satan will rush in and have us thinking about the pleasures of the flesh. Then, satan will keep telling us about all the things we don’t have. After listening to that for a short while, we become sin-conscious. In that state of mind, we are of little use to God, ourselves or anyone else.
Fight the good fight and stay focused on Jesus. Then we will enjoy God’s peace, joy will overflow and it will be completely natural for us to praise Him for His goodness.
Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT) 14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
God is waiting to show you the way.
God is the Creator of all things. Therefore, they are His to give as He desires. His resources, like His love, are unlimited. Our tiny human minds cannot begin to imagine the depth. length, width, and height of God’s love. There is only one force that is powerful enough to cause a Creator to create a creature knowing that He would someday have to die on a cross to redeem His creation from eternal death. It is a love that certainly is too great for us to understand. Now, we can only try to imagine that kind of love, but one day we will know the fullness of God’s love. Today, we see in a glass darkly, but one day, we will see clearly. His love is the power in us that causes us to want to love our friends and our enemies. There are 3 great motivators for humans: greed, power, and love. Greed only lasts till the money runs out, power only lasts until you reach the top rung, but love is unlimited.
So give love graciously and abundantly, there is no end to the supply of love.