God’s Sovereignty In the Book of Acts: Ordaining the Cross

God’s-Sovereignty

“His Sovereignty rules over all.” – Ps. 103:19

I have often heard the phrase, “God is sovereign” in a way that has been spoken to me to give me encouragement in a tough time or situation. But I never really took the time to meditate on what it meant for Him to be sovereign. The term is defined by having supreme power and authority, a free ability to do as one pleases. In other words, God is in absolute control over every situation, and works out everything according to His will. Think on it for a while, and it will drive your brain into massive confusion. However, we are called to submit ourselves to and believe what scripture tells us, and trust in his sovereignty.

These past few days, I have read through the book of Acts, and I was struck with how much it reveals about God’s sovereignty-with regards to salvation! I simply would like to share them with you in a 3 part series, so that you too can see how God has worked out salvation for his people, and how you, too, if in Christ, were brought into salvation by his amazing grace.

In this first post, Lets look at the major theme of sovereignty in how God ordained the cross:

  • Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23

I had a very interesting conversation with a Muslim man the other day, who asked me if Christians hated Jews, because they were the ones who “killed Jesus.” This was the first time that I had really come across this misconception. Before I could reply, my friend with me answered, “No,no,no, we don’t hate them at all. We believe it was God’s plan all along, that he used the Jews and the Romans to accomplish his purpose of sacrificing Jesus!” This can be a tough pill to swallow, but Acts 2:23 clearly states for us that Jesus was crucified because it was the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Let’s look at another verse:

  • What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Acts 3:18

In this verse we are told that not only did God plan it from the beginning, but you can see his plan through reading the prophets in the Old Testament. Lets look at one of the most well-known passages. Isaiah 53:5 reads, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isn’t is incredible that these words were written 600-700 years before Jesus birth? There are over 300 in the Old Testament like it! God surely had a plan, and was voicing it to his people all throughout history.

If you haven’t been convinced yet, lets look at one last verse,

  • For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus…Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your hand had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27-28

In the most heinous crime committed in the history of mankind, God was behind the scenes, sovereignly ruling. His hand predestined for Jesus to go to the cross, and to bear the weight of our filthy sin. He planned it all, so that whosoever would repent and believe in Him, would have eternal life. This was the depth of his love for us, that he would send his own Son, who would be despised and rejected, so that we might have life with Him. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. Recognizing this plan helps us understand the cornerstone of the gospel, seen in Isaiah 53:10,” Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him.” Him- meaning Jesus.

People everywhere are commanded to repent and believe in this incredible gospel (Acts 17:30). How could we not accept so great a Savior? How could we not devote our lives to a God, who in his sovereignty planted the very tree that he would be crucified on-all to give us life and relationship with Him?

Truly, He is sovereign.

Jesus: Giver of Living Water

At the very beginning of the story of the woman at the well, we see Jesus do something that yet again sets himself apart from most religious leaders at the time. We are told that he had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4). Most devout Jews would avoid Samaria on this journey to and from Judea, taking a much longer route, due to their racism and hatred of Samaritans. Jesus, however, walks right on through, and sits down for a divine appointment with a sinful Samaritan woman.

Jesus tells the woman,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” -John 4:14

The woman suddenly makes a request for this water, but she does not understand what Jesus is saying. This is clearly shown in the latter part of her sentence, “..so I will not be thirsty

Jesus came to quench the “thirst” of those longing to know God. He alone provides the “living water” for us to be in a relationship with God and be satisfied with Him forever!

To aid the woman’s misunderstanding, Jesus helps her understand who he is by telling her he knows of her five husbands (4:18) and prophesying that people will eventually be able to worship anywhere (because God will no longer dwell on a mountain or in a tabernacle, but in the hearts of believers). When the woman tells Jesus that she knows that a “Messiah” is coming, he responds with what would be an incredibly dramatic scene in a movie by saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

I trust that at once the woman knew who Jesus claimed to be, and she believed- she drank of the living water.

In verse 28 we are told, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into the town..”

She left her water jar! This is not astounding to 21st century readers as it should be, because we do not understand the difficulties of retrieving water. Most women in the 1st century would walk some great distance to fill their jars for the necessities that the day held: cooking, bathing, drinking, etc. Also, the fact that the woman came at approximately noon is a possible indicator itself that she felt ashamed and didn’t want to be seen in public (potentially due to her having 5 husbands)- which makes it all the more interesting that this is the woman that Jesus speaks to. Nevertheless, what we do know for sure is that the retrieval of water was a big deal-so to leave the jar behind and return to town without it-was a big deal!

This is to say that the most important thing in the woman’s life at the time was dropped when she encountered Jesus. I believe she understood that she had encountered something far greater than a necessity for this physical life- she encountered the necessity for a spiritual life in God- Jesus.

You see Jesus offers this living water to us, it is ours for the taking. To trust him, to drink of the water that he offers, to be brought in relationship with Him, and to never thirst again- is the offer on the table. Will you take it?

If you are dying of thirst in a desert and you stumble upon a pool of water, would you look at it? Would you admire it? Would you try to understand how it got there? Or how you stumbled upon it? Would you memorize its color and study it? No- You would drink it at once!

The woman not only left her jar, she ran into the town, among the people she was ashamed to be seen by, and emphatically told them about Jesus. Her previous worries of being mocked or looked down upon were gone! She knew who she had encountered- the King of the universe. You can encounter him, too.

My friends, please drink of this living water! Drop everything else your worrying or thinking about. Nothing is as important as this- Have you accepted Jesus? Have you drank of the living water? Throw yourself upon Christ. He is waiting to quench your everlasting thirst!

Please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu with any questions!

John 3 – “You Must Be Born Again”

Jesus was very clear about the change that must take place in order to become one of his own and see the kingdom of God.

You must be born again” John 3:7

Must I go to church? No, you must be born again. Must I pray a certain prayer? No, you must be born again. Must I give to the poor? No, you must be born again. Must I be baptized? No, you must be born again. Must I follow the law? No, you must be born again. Must I teach Sunday school or sing in the choir? No, you must be born again!

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3

One of my spiritual heroes, C.H. Spurgeon, illustrated this truth this way (in my own paraphrase):

Suppose that in England, there should be a law passed that admission to courts, preference to office, and any privileges in the nation were only given to the natural born citizens of the country. What then, would court officials say if an native Indian man came to them and said, “I will change my name” or “I will change my dress” or “I will change my family, my friends,” or “I will learn the language” or “I will work for it!” You see none of these things could admit the man, for the law is absolute, the man must be an natural born citizen to obtain the privileges, and he is not.

This illustration also correlates with us as Christians. We cannot change our names (call ourselves Christians), change the way we dress, change our friends, change our behavior, learn to talk like Christians, learn to pray like Christians, give away our money, help the poor, or do any type of Christian service. For God’s statement is clear: “You must be born again.”

This new birth is a sweeping process which is more than a change, it is a creation. Not just reformation, but regeneration. Not just becoming religious, but being born. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefor, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; Behold, the new has come.”

Do you exhibit a different life than you did before? Do you now hate the very things you used to love? Have your desires changed? Do you have a hunger for reading and understanding God’s Word? Do you desire to be around other believers? Can you persist in sin? What is your attitude towards sin- are you brokenhearted over it? or are you still indifferent to it? To whom have you entrusted your whole life to?

We cannot bring about these changes ourselves, nor make ourselves “born again.” We are only born again of the Spirit, the power of God. Salvation is a magnificent work where a soul is saved and made completely new. Ultimately, Jesus is the only one who can bring about this new creation in us.

It is imperative to understand that he brings about this change. “Behold” says Christ, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Dear friend, you must be made new; you must be born again! I paraphrase Mr. Spurgeon again, “Christ can make you really pure in heart; he can make you a new creature, so that you shall be converted and become as a little child. “Oh!” say you, “how can I get it? How can I prepare myself for him?” You do not want to prepare yourself for him. Go to him just as you are; trust him to do it, and he will do it. That is faith, you know–trust, dependence. Can you believe that Christ can save you? Oh! you can believe that; well now, will you trust him to save you? Will you trust him to deliver you from your drunkenness, from your angry temper, your pride, your love of self, your lusts? Do you desire to be a new creature in Christ Jesus? If so, that very desire must have come from heaven. I could fain hope that he has already begun the good work in you, and he that begins it will carry it on.”

“”Oh! make me a new creature!” If you have said that from your heart, you are a new creature, dear brother, and we will rejoice together in this regenerating Savior.” (Spurgeon, A New Creation, published July 15, 1915.)

John 2: Jesus Turns Water To Wine: Amazing Symbolism

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Most people have heard about Jesus turning the water into wine, but do they really know what it means? Do you really know what it means?

If you have not read this portion of scripture, please read John 2:1-12 now so that we may be taught of the Spirit together as we analyze this passage! This miracle of Jesus packs a deep meaning that radically sets the stage for the rest of his life, ministry, and purpose.

First, its important to know the setting for where He performed his first miracle. We see that he performs it at a wedding feast (John 2:1), one of the most treasured celebrations in 1st century Jerusalem. He is attending with his mother and a few of his disciples, and it is brought to his attention that there is no more wine to be served. To us, this doesn’t seem like a big issue, but the point of all Jesus’ miracles is to demonstrate spiritual truth, and what a amazing truth he reveals through this miracle!

Key Point: Jesus uses the ceremonial cleansing jars to create the wine. (John 2:6)

We need to note what Jesus used to turn the water into wine. He used ceremonial cleaning jars, which probably already had a decent amount of old water sitting in them. The Jews would use these water jars to purify themselves: to wash themselves, and make themselves “clean” before God. By using these jars, Jesus is giving us a sneak peek of what is to come. Jesus is showing us that the cleansing of His blood (as we know, in the Bible, the blood of Christ is represented by wine -Matt 26:28) is far greater than any ritual washings – and the transformation of this very water into wine symbolizes the transformation of Judaism.
The fact that Jesus changed the ceremonial washing water into wine proves that he will do away with the rituals of Judaism, and that we will be made clean before God through his blood. Jesus filled the containers to the brim (John 2:7) to show that no space is left for ritual washings after his sacrifice.

Jesus instructs the servants to take a pitcher of this water to the master, and so they did. We don’t actually know when the water turns to wine, but when the master of the feasts takes a sip, he says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). Is this recorded just to show us that Jesus should start a new career as a wine-maker? Certainly not. The Spirit is showing us something here:

The statement made by the master of the feast implies this: That typically, the best wine is served first, so that the people “get their fill” (get drunk) and can’t tell when a cheaper wine is introduced. In the same way, The Jews had been “drinking wine” (aka. performing their ritual washings) for so long that they weren’t able to recognize when something better came along (Jesus)!

Jesus conveys this truth again in the same chapter when he drives out the temple. He exclaims, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus was talking about his own body, and it was through the “destroying of it” and his rising from the dead that was able to accomplish this new system, where his blood covers our sin, not our ritual washings or other works.

Jesus came to make everything new, and he clearly demonstrated that by turning old water used for bathing into brand new wine. He also came to make the heart new. We will see that tomorrow in John 3!

(please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu for further explanation or questions)

John 1: The Word Became Flesh

This year, my family, some friends and I are reading through the book of John counting down to Christmas. Each day we are reading a chapter and I am writing an analysis. Please join us! Today is John Chapter 1.

John 1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, He was in the beginning with God.” (verses 1-2).

In the very beginning of the book of John, we are given a clear representation of who Jesus is. From these first two verses, what are we told? That in the beginning, the Word was there, with God, and was God. So who or what is this “Word?” None other than Jesus himself! Skim down to verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Aha! Now we can read these “Word” verses with this knowledge in mind. Lets summarize what this section tells us about Jesus:

  • In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. (v.1)
  • He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. (v.2)
  • All things were made through him (Jesus), and nothing was made without him. (v.3)
  • In him (Jesus) is life, and he is the light of men. (v.4)
  • Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among us (v.14)

Is this odd that John starts with these deep truths about Jesus right at the beginning? Why would he do that? I believe he was intentional about it, because he believed it was absolutely crucial to understand that Jesus was God in the form of a man, to understand the gospel at all!

So what else is unique here? (besides John the Baptist, I will write of him in a later post). Look at this verse, “No one has ever seen God, the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (verse 18). What does this tell us? The 2nd time the verse says “God,” it is referring to Jesus! Some older manuscripts read “The only Son…..has made him known.” We could also read this verse now thinking of Jesus: “No one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

So Jesus has come to make God known, and so that we can know Him! As we read on in John, we will see that because of our sinful condition, this was the only possible way that we could be made right with God. The Bible calls this “knowing God” eternal life; “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

We will see as we continue reading that Jesus came to accomplish this very purpose, to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). But first he must live a life of perfect obedience, offer up his life by being nailed to a cross, and rise from the grave to do so. I hope you will join my family and me as we continue to read the gospel of John this Christmas season, as we strive to know God through the amazing gift he has given us: Jesus!

God’s Word- Purpose Beyond Salvation

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God’s Word is amazing. It is inerrant, infallible, and is the literal Word of God! No other book holds the keys to eternal life; We have everything that we need within the Scriptures to lead us unto salvation. Life can be found through them, and a sinner can be eternally changed by them. What other book can provide this kind of strength, meaning, and power?

However, I believe many Christians (including me for a long period of time)think that after salvation, the Bible is supposed to be used for retracting a verse that makes us feel good, or to help convince us that what we believe is true. For years of my Christian life, I read the Word because “thats what good Christians do,” and because I wanted answers to theological arguments that I enjoyed having. I never read the Scriptures for application, I never read them with thoughts of, “How can I apply this?,” “What does this mean for me?,” “How can I actually live this out?,” or “What is this calling me to DO?” Because of my surface level reading and incorrect motives, I believe that I misused a lot of reading time, time that could’ve shaped me into a more Godly man.

At the beginning of my Sophomore year I was challenged by the guy that disciples me to read the scriptures with a different mindset: seeking applications from them to help me walk out my faith. I began reading the Word with the questions mentioned above, and my life started to change. I was convicted of certain sins in my life, encouraged by verses I never noticed before, and developed a genuine hunger for the Word of God. I started reading every morning, journaling my thoughts, and praying through the scriptures, asking for help to do what it commanded of me, and giving thanks for verses that built me up or declared what Christ has done for me.

This morning, I was reading in Luke 11, where a woman exlaims in a crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb you came from!” and Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28. I recalled a passage I read from a few days earlier, where someone else calls out to Jesus, telling him that his mother and brothers are waiting to see him. Jesus continues teaching, and says, ““My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21. I was reminded of the importance to coming to Scripture with the attitude and stance of coming to hear, and hearing so that I can do.

Reading the Scriptures with this mindset provides such a beautiful alleyway into faith and prayer. Upon reading the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Jesus, I cannot help but to be humbled and drawn to my knees asking the Father to empower me to be able to do what my Savior teaches. Reading the Scriptures with this mindset has drastically changed my walk and relationship with Christ, as well as my relationship with others! I have come to notice the Spirit working in my heart now more than ever, and I’ve also become more and more aware of sin that I need to repent of! Reading the Word this way has also developed an increase faith in Christ, because I need his help to even begin to do what he says, and after I continue to fail, my eyes are lifted back unto him, who has saved me from my inability to live up to God’s standards!

Let me make this clear: I do not believe that we must read scripture like I have talked about to merit salvation. Salvation is a gift. A gift cannot be earned, it can only be received! However, lets say you receive an amazing Christmas gift that comes with an instruction manual, wouldn’t you read the manual to make sure you can reap all the benefits and learn all the components of the gift? My friends, this is no different! The fact that Christ reconciled us to the Father and saved us from death by his sinless life and willing sacrifice on the cross alone contains so much beauty that we need all of eternity to admire it. However, theres more to this gift than just Heaven! The Scriptures also give us practical applications on how to live, how to walk with Christ, and how to be conformed to HIS image, which Scripture defines as a life full of joy and life abundantly! Christ refers to those who read the Scriptures who do them as his “brothers.” O, what a beautiful opportunity we have to please him, rely on him, and acquaint ourselves with him daily through reading the Word like this!

I challenge you to read the Word and ask the Father to empower you through his Spirit to DO what is says this week!

 

A.W. Tozer- Self-Sins

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, KJV)

To be specific, the self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention till the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins–egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion–are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy.

They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice….

Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment.

“Oh Lord, do that ‘work of God in destruction’ within me today. I am indeed ‘crucified with Christ.’ I pray this morning that the cross would obliterate the self-sins in my life and let me live only for Jesus Christ and His glory. Amen.” (Tozer on Christian Leadership, November 15)

Father’s Day…Please Don’t Forget Our Heavenly Father!

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Today people all around the country wake up to face father’s day with many different circumstances. Some wake up fatherless, and they have been so every since they could remember. Some wake up with a father who has left them, been absent, abused them, or just not cared about them. Some arise to face their first father’s day without their father, and to the people facing all these different circumstances, my heart goes out to you.

Some of us wake up to a kind, loving, father; and if that is you, make sure you tell him how much you love him. Over and over again. My father has been one of the biggest influences in my life, and I have been very blessed to have such a loving, caring, God-fearing man to lead me the first twenty years of my life. Dads like these are not the norm in our culture anymore, so if you have one, thank them and tell them you love them over 15 times today-the challenge is on! In our culture today, 43% of kids grow up fatherless. And to those without, I can’t understand how that has impacted you or how it must feel, but I want to draw the attention of both ends of the spectrum to our perfect heavenly father.

He is perfect. He created us to have perfect union and relationship with him, but it was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. However, this did not surprise our all-knowing Father. He loved us so much that he was willing to give up his ONLY son that we may be given back the ability to have a relationship with him. He did this because he is perfectly just and holy yet completely loving and merciful. We can now be restored to an incredible love relationship with him…all because we meant enough to him that he was willing to give up the one thing that he loved the most. My friends, this Father is waiting for you!

This father’s day, make a commitment to live under his perfect fatherhood. He wants to show you what a perfect father is like. He looks down on us thinking, “You mean so much to me. I gave up my only Son and delivered him be tortured, spit on, and hung on a tree, and I had to turn my back on Him, the hardest and most painful thing that I have ever done, all so I could have a relationship with you. Please, come to me, I am the perfect Father, and I will love you and care for you, for all of your days.” If you are reading this post this morning, this is what God is saying to you! He watched his Son be brutally crucified and poured his wrath out on Jesus so that WE could have a relationship with him, free from the bonds of sin and death! He so desperately desires for you to believe in his Son and his sacrifice for your sins so that he can show you what it is like to live with a perfect father! He wants to love, care, help, provide, support, give, and simply do life with you. Its why he created you!

Some of us have great earthly fathers, and some of us don’t, but our heavenly Father is so much more loving and caring than any of the best earthly fathers could ever be! If you have a great earthly father, well, you also have access to one that is much greater than him, and if you have no earthly father, or one with some issues, you have access to a perfect heavenly Father that will love you and care for you much more than any man ever will.

So thank and love on your earthly fathers, but please, please remember your heavenly Father! No dad in all the earth could sacrifice what our heavenly father sacrificed for us! And he did it because he loves us perfectly and desperately desires to have a relationship with us. We are his passion. So pray to him today, read his Word today. Start a new relationship with him, or make the choice to go deeper into the one you already have. Earthly fathers who don’t make time to spend with their children cause their relationship to crumble, and likewise we can cause our relationship with our heavenly father to regress if we don’t make the time to spend with Him!

He delights when we come to Him, He is so passionate about us that when we cut our eyes toward Him his heart beats faster and faster. He so desperately wants to show us how great of a Father he really is as we walk with him throughout our life. Look at the picture above; This is exactly how he wants to do all of life with us, right by our side, holding our hand, comforting us and leading us! How beautiful a Father we have access to!

Spend time with him today, thanking him, telling him how much you love him and appreciate what he has done for you. Surrender to Him by asking Him to Father you!

Happy Father’s Day Everyone!

 

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling.” -God

You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7

“The greatest task of the believer is to seek out and try to discover how much God loves them.” -Paul Washer

The hardest thing to believe is the way that our God loves us. He loves us with a pure and perfect love, and when he looks on us, he says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling.” It is so hard to believe it, because our culture gives us such a shallow definition of love. But oh, this love, we have never seen anything like it! Think about it, the God who created ENTIRE UNIVERSE looks on US, and says, “You are beautiful, my darling.”

Why does he view us as beautiful? Because Christ is beautiful! We are told that any good thing we do as an unbeliever is nothing but “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Picture yourself, before you come to Christ, standing, wearing nothing but filthy, dirty rags. You see, Jesus also wears a garment, it is a cloak of perfect righteousness, and it is utterly beautiful. When we lay everything at the cross and come to Jesus to save us from our sin, he strips us of our filthy rags, and he places HIS cloak of righteousness over us, and WE are made righteous. When God looks upon us, he doesn’t see the old, wicked, rebellious sinner. He sees his Son’s cloak of righteousness, his Son’s beauty, and he regards US as beautiful.

We ought not to only say, “Christ died for us.” You see, Christ also lived for us! He stepped down from his heavenly throne and lived a perfect life, full of good works, filled with love, mercy, and grace! He lived this life so that by going to the cross and being crushed for our sin (Isaiah 53:5) God the Father’s wrath would be taken out on him, and that we, by believing in him, may be given his perfect obedience as our own. This is what the second part of the Song of Solomon verse is referring to when it says, “and there is no blemish in you.” ! How amazing is this! That when the God of the universe looks on us, he loves us and sees us as beautiful, because we have Christ’s perfect obedience and life laid over our own lives. He sees us as PERFECT! He sees no blemish in us! This is how he can love us so much and be so passionate about a relationship with us!

God pursues his children. Constantly. He loves them so much! He is always calling them, “Come, come, come” and he makes sure that they will. This is why someone who says they were saved twenty something years ago by saying a prayer but have never grown, they have not come to love God’s people, and they have never encountered God, probably are misunderstanding salvation..and have not truly been saved…because God PURSUES his children! Oh, that you would not experience a life without the Father’s love! He desperately wants you to come to him and seek him and love him! When we focus our eyes on heaven, when look to Jesus, when we pray with a pure heart, his heart beats faster and faster. That’s how much he loves us, he PASSIONATELY desires you! Our God is such a lover. Our love for him, regardless of how small it may be, is cherished by him! Paul Washer says that,”Every time that we cut our eyes to heaven, it is as if the heart of deity beats faster!” Oh, how God loves his children coming to them in prayer!

True religion is not trying to do better or doing the right thing, the real religion is, “He saved me, I want to know Him, I want to please Him, I want to love Him!” He loves us this much! This will drive the unconverted, falsely assured “Christian” to think that this gives him the license to sin, because he will simply be forgiven. Oh, how wrong he is! This truth of how much our God loves us will drive the converted, genuine Christian to say, “If he loves me this much, I want to be for him all that he wants me to be!,” which will ultimately cultivate obedience.

If you are in Christ, God really does love you this much. He sees his only begotten Son, whom he so desperately loved, every time that he looks at you. His righteousness is yours. I plead with you to come to him! This love relationship is unlike any other you will ever experience on this earth. It is so hard for us to fathom because we have never seen anything like it. Come to Him, pray to Him, seek Him, love Him, cut your eyes to heaven and make His heart beat faster! He is longing to hear from YOU!

The Heart, Words, and a Love For Jesus

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Convicted. Sometimes I approach God’s divine Word, I walk away thinking, “Man, scripture calls me to do this, act this way, treat people this way, and I just can’t do it!” However, I believe there are two ways to respond to this: 1.) Give Up- When I’m convicted, I could easily say, “Man! This bible stuff is so hard, there’s so much I can’t do! Jesus can’t possibly expect me to actually do these things, and if I show a tiny bit of effort, that will be enough. Or, 2.) I could say, “Lord, even as I read your Word I realize more and more how much I don’t even come close measuring up to your standards. I am so depraved and sinful, and would be utterly lost without you. Thank you so much from saving me from this body of sin. Please, by the help of your Holy Spirit, help me to not only hear and understand your words, but to DO them.”

I was confronted with another passage of scripture this morning that brought me this “decision point” of how to respond. The passage is in Matthew 12 (verse 34) where Jesus says, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Wow. I was taken back a bit. As I read this scripture I remembered the conversations I had the day before about NBA Playoff predictions, golf, braves, fishing, hunting, work, etc. Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of our heart, our mouth speaks. Basically, whatever we prize or cherish the most, is what we talk about the most! I was convicted, but also encouraged to engage in more conversations with my peers (and even strangers) about Jesus!

I was talking with my girlfriend earlier this week, and our conversation was about the reason that we were created. In scripture, we are told that we were created for two related reasons:

  1. To glorify God.
  2. To have a personal relationship with him.

If we honestly believed this, how much more time would we doing things that accomplishes both of these? Wouldn’t we have more conversations with our friends about the one who made a personal relationship with God possible for us!?

Jesus HAS made it possible!  This IS the purpose that YOU were created! If this concept is foreign to you, or your have never really understood all this “Jesus” stuff, let me give you a brief attempt at revealing this amazingly good news: We are sinful. You know we are. We all do “wrong” things and rebel against God. This happens because God created man and woman to live in perfect harmony with him, and they sinned against him by breaking one rule he gave them. Mankind has been slaves to sin ever since. David says in Psalm 51, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin are death.” By being sinful, we deserve an eternity in Hell, suffering never ending torment and separation from God. But God chose to manifest himself through his only Son, Jesus, stepping down from a place in glory, to a place where he would be beaten, mocked, abused, and spit on, just for you and me. He lived a perfect, sinless life, and was subject to torture and to death upon a cross, all for us. He did this so that by believing in him, his blood would cover all of our sins and make us in right standing with God. God no longer sees us as sinners, he sees us as saints. When he looks on us, he sees Christ and his righteousness. We are given access to eternity with Him because Christ’s obedience and perfect life is attributed to us if we believe. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” The relationship that God intended to have with Adam and Eve has been restored, and he will keep us into his hand until the end of our lives, where we CONTINUE this relationship with Him in heaven!

A quote by one of my favorite pastors, Timothy Keller, demonstrates Christ’s great love for me and YOU:

Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think “I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.” No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us – denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him – and in the greatest act of love in history, he STAYED.

My friends, he did this for YOU! When he was being beaten, spit on, mocked, and crucified, he could’ve easy had an army of angels at his side at once, but he STAYED and endured, so that you and I could be restored to our Father!

I encourage you to spend some time this week focusing on these truths. No one has or will ever love you this much. He saved you from so much. I encourage you to come along side me and help make Christ the center of some of our conversations (yes, outside of church) this week, showing others how thankful we are for Him and how much we truly love Him! Here are a couple questions I can think of to get the ball rolling!

  1. What is your view of Jesus? How would you describe him?
  2. How did you come to know Jesus, or how long have you been walking with Him?
  3. What changes have you experienced in your life as a result of following Jesus?
  4. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus?
  5. How is He working in your life right now?

Prove that Jesus is the abundance of your heart this week!