Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the Apocalypse of John is.. quite diverse. But ultimately, if you could condense the purpose, you could say that the Bible is an invitation. An invitation firstly, to enjoy an intimate fellowship with God, despite our sins, through Christ Jesus, now and forever. Secondly, an invitation to walk in His Way. An invitation to trace His footsteps, as we walk through the days of our life.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
In His final message, mere hours before His arrest and crucifixion, and knowing fully well all that was awaiting Him, the Lord leaves those who follow Him with a ‘commandment.’ Jesus commands, “love one another as I have loved you.” We’re commanded to live like Jesus. We’re commanded to love like Jesus. And most of us in Christ, know this.
WWJD..? What would Jesus do..? That’s a question we often find that we ask ourselves in situations that confront us. And that perhaps is a good start, but.. how many times do we find that we know what Jesus would’ve done, yet find ourselves unable to do the same..?
Love the unlovable, He said and He did. Forgive the unforgivable, He said and He did. We know that Jesus loved, and that He forgave. But how many times, do we fall short of His standards..? At times, knowing what we are to do, and at times even desiring to do, but still.. unable to find the strength within to be like Him. While our minds know all we are to do, the strength to live like Jesus, comes not from the mind, but from our hearts…
..for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Is the joy of the LORD reigning in your heart..? Striving to be like Christ, is a noble pursuit, but.. we will only weary ourselves undertaking the impossible, without the strength of His joy. We may strive to keep ourselves pure and free from sin as He is, only to end up in frustration. We may desperately will ourselves to be more loving people, and maybe, just maybe.. we can turn our ways around to the eyes of those around us. But when we haven’t truly changed in places where the eyes of people cannot see.. in our hearts, it’ll only remain a sapping yet vain endeavour.
Joy though, does something that our meticulous efforts could never do. When we abide in His joy, the command to live like the Christ, no longer has to be seen as something that needs to be worked on, but instead as something that flows from within…
Have you ever noticed how in our moments of mirth, all that the Bible commands us becomes a little easier..? When we’re in a mood to celebrate, loving one another seems like the logical thing to do, doesn’t it..? We’re quick to give. We’re even quick to forgive. We’ve all had such moments in life, haven’t we..? Now joy is similar to mirth, except.. it is ever in our reach, even when the lights of our life have seemingly gone out, and all we could see around is darkness. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
There is fullness of joy in His presence. And to all who desire to enter, in search of that ever available joy, the Holy One says, “Do not be afraid.” He says, “Come As You Are.” Through His work on the cross, the Lord has made a Way, where even the worst of sinners can enter into His presence and delight in His joy, taking away the yoke that was upon us. The unrighteous are freely welcome into His presence, for only His joy can lead us into a life of righteousness. And this is where the ‘command’ to live like Jesus, becomes an ‘invitation’ to live like Him. Nowhere is this message more apparent than in the tale of the Christ and a man named Zacchaeus, from Luke 19:1-10…
Zacchaeus – the man who is remembered for climbing a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus – was a tax collector. To most of us, the term would hardly ring a bell. But to people in the New Testament times, those words spoke too much about the moral standing of a person. People held a tax collector in the same regard as a prostitute. They were commonly referred to as sinners…
When Jesus saw Zacchaeus perched on a branch, He calls him by name and tells him that He will be staying at his house. People around Jesus expected the righteous to avoid the presence of sinners. They grumbled among themselves, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner,” as though the Lord who can look into our hearts, hadn’t a clue. But Jesus was here with one purpose. To seek out a man lost in sin…
So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.
..and Zacchaeus received Him joyfully. The crowd could only see his past. They had no clue as to the heart of this man. Within him there was something new. Within him there was a heart filled with joy. Like the people in the crowd Zacchaeus must have expected Jesus to seek out the righteous, but to his surprise, he realised, “The Lord has come in search of a sinner like me…”
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
And the joy that flooded his heart, produced something so beyond the belief of the people who branded him a sinner. Zacchaeus, who until now had extorted money from his people, no longer desired unrighteous wealth. He not only ventured to repay those whom he had defrauded, but even that which was rightfully his, he chose to share with the poor…
The message, “Come As You Are,” once again repeats itself over here, doesn’t it..? The Christ did not wait for Zacchaeus to make atonement for his sins before He welcomed him into His presence. Zacchaeus was welcomed as a sinner. But more importantly, this sinner no longer remained a slave to his sin. And how did that happen..? Was it the fear of the fire of hell to lead him into righteousness..? Nay, it was joy that did what fear could never do. Joy in Christ set Zacchaeus free from his sin…
Are you filled with the desire to be righteous..? Does the pursuit leave you feeling worn out, without the strength to take another step..? Remember, this was never something to be done in our own strength. Remember Zacchaeus. Remember the Lord who comes in search of those lost in sin, to welcome them into His presence. Remember the joy in His presence. Remember the strength to be changed that that joy does produce. Look to Him. His arms are open wide…
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5
Missing inside me is something,
Missed by a heaving heart.
Like a separation,
From somewhere I’m meant to be.
Like a separation,
From someone I’m meant to be with.
To quench the thirst there is nothing,
To quench the thirst in my soul.
There are places that can enchant,
And make you feel alive,
But only for a while.
There are people who fill the void,
But never ever, forever.
Can there ever be any one thing,
That I could need, more than this..?
To eternally be,
In that place,
In the loving embrace,
Of the Person,
Who is the Father,
To Christ the sinless One,
And to me, His sinful son..?
Who loves us both,
All the same..?
All I can have is everything,
When I have Him, I have all there is.
When you see yourself as strong,
Remember how weak you were.
When you see yourself as kind,
Remember how reckless and rude you were.
When you see yourself as wise,
Remember the fool that you once were.
When you see yourself as bold,
Remember the coward that you were.
When you see you have a heart that loves,
Remember how cold it were.
When you see you have unbreakable faith,
Remember how brittle it once were.
When you see yourself as a righteous man,
Remember the sinner that you were.
At the end of it all,
When you see that you’ve done your duties in life,
Remember the nothing that you were,
When you stood by yourself,
And leaned not on Him.
Help me remember, Lord. Amen.
An excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon ‘THE BACKSLIDERS DOOR OF HOPE’ from May 8th, 1898.
You must have noticed, dear friends, that whenever men turn aside from Christ, they go away from all the music of true religion. A little religion is a very’ miserable thing; if you have just enough religion to let you know that you are wrong, and not enough to make you right, you are spoiled for the joys of the world, yet you do not possess the joys of the world to come. I cannot help telling you again the old American story about the apples in the orchard. There is said to have been a gentleman, who asked a friend to come and have some of his apples, which he said were among the finest apples in the State; yet his friend did not come, though he was invited several times. The gentleman thought that there must be some reason for his refusal, so he asked him why he did not come; and he answered, “The fact is, while I have been driving by your orchard, I have picked up an apple or two that fell into the road, and I can’t say that I have at all pleasant memories of those apples, they were the sourest that I ever ate in my life, they set my teeth on edge even to think of them.” “Oh!” said the owner of the orchard, “now I understand. Why, I sent a great many miles to buy those particular apples that grow just by the side of the hedge, and fall into the road. I bought them for the special benefit of the boys who might be inclined to steal my fruit. Whenever they taste them, they say to themselves, It is no use to rob that orchard, the apples are horribly sour. “But,” he added, “if you will come inside, where those boys do not come, you shall then see what a good apple is like.” So is it with religion; all along the outside of the hedge:, where those people come who have just a little religion, the fruit; is as sour as it can be, — repentance that needs to be repented of, and that gripes the very spirit of the man who has it. There are plenty of those things on the outside; but you have no idea of the luscious sweetness of the fruits that grow in the center; and these shall be yours if you come back to the Master, and give yourself up wholly to him; and the result will be that you will again begin to sing.
You can read the transcript of the full sermon at Biblia.
“Is the God of the Bible really a loving person..? Christians keep parroting the words ‘Jesus Loves You’, yet all I see when I look into their message is a pistol pointing right between my eyes saying, ‘Believe in Jesus or Die’. How is that love..?”
That is a question I am pleased to hear as it means one thing – the one posing the question has considered the message of the Bible. At the same time, there is a sense of failure when I realise how lousy us Christians are – me included – at sharing the Good News.
In this post, I’ll explain why as a Christian I feel this falls short of the truth. In the end I know that it’ll all come down to faith – believing if the Bible is true or not is a matter of one’s own choice. But my purpose for writing this is to explain what the Bible has to say as an answer to this question – which I believe it does with absolute clarity.
Firstly, what is my stand on that statement mentioned above. According to the Word of God is it true that ‘unless you believe in Jesus you will die’..? Frankly, yes. Plain speak – the way Christians are commanded to share the Truth in 2 Corinthians 4:2. But still, I do not agree with the quoted text above. And I hope you’ll bear with me a little as I tell you why.
I’ll start off with a little story….
There once broke out in a city a fever that affected all – both young and old, rich and poor, the strong and the weak, men and women. At least one person was affected in each household. Leading doctors in the city concurred that the fever was caused by a virus known to exist elsewhere in the world. They began to administer medication as per their diagnosis. All was going well – or so they thought.
In the same city lived an old man – a scientist. Through his own private research he noted that the virus was not the same as the doctors had observed it to be. This in fact was a previously unknown, lethal cousin. Having understood the nature of the virus, the scientist developed a cure in quick time – spending a fortune. He took the cure to the leading hospitals in the city, but to his astonishment he faced rejection everywhere.
Disturbed at the thought of the fate of the people, he decided to reach them directly. With the little money he had left, he set out to spread the message of the nature of the disease and how it wasn’t as benign as the people thought it to be. He spoke about how his cure tackled the disease and offered the life saving medicine for free. He stood on the streets and cried, “Hear me, please. Unless you believe me you will die”.
The people he so loved, shunned him. He was mocked and humiliated – despised of all. In the end only a handful of people gave ear to him – people who had hit the depths of poverty that they could not afford the medication sold at the hospitals. To all who came to him, the scientist with a glad heart gave the medicine for free. And the poor lived.
I guess you see where I am getting. ‘Unless you believe me you will die’, the line used by the scientist in the story is similar to the condensed message the Bible shares with us today. As much as people must have hurt the scientist by rejecting his message, they did not die because of him but because of the disease that spread. So too, people will not die a spiritual death because Jesus has judged them for rejecting Him. Jesus Himself says in John 12:47 – “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” Spiritual death however will come because of the disease of sin.
But is there really such a disease..? Can I prove to you that humanity is dying in sin..? Perhaps not. But the fact that I want to state is that that is what is said in the Bible. In Romans 3:23 the Bible says that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. Then we head on to see in Romans 6:23 that the ‘wages of sin is death’.
And where in the Bible do we find the cure to our deadly illness..? The Scripture from beginning to end – from the prophecy in Eden’s Garden to the apocalyptic vision of John in the Book of Revelation where he looks upon the slain Lamb standing in the center of the throne – points us to that. Jesus Himself testifies to that at the Last Supper. In Matthew 26:28, the Lord says that His blood is ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’. His contemporary John the Baptist in John 1:29 proclaimed, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’. The clincher though comes from a text far ahead of the time in which John lived. In the Book of Isaiah Chapter 53, Isaiah prophecied in the 7th century BC of all that Jesus would have to go through in the years of the 1st century AD. In verse 5 he says, ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed’.
Before I conclude, let’s shift our gaze for a moment back to a verse I mentioned earlier, having touched upon the first part – Romans 6:23. The verse that begins as ‘For the wages of sin is death’ – which is the core of the Biblical message – continues, ‘but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Like the good scientist in our little story, our good God – having done all that is required to win it – is calling out to offer eternal life as a gift to anyone who would come to Him.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The message of the Bible – Not a threat with a pointed gun. But rather, an invition dressed with love to receive a gift beyond price.