As I look back over the years, a lot of events aren’t clear, but running through all of them is the reality of the love and presence of Jesus. Lots of folks have lied to me, but he has never lied, not even once. A lot of people have failed me, and I have failed a lot of people, but he has never failed, not even once.
Jesus got under my skin and I can’t get away from him. It’s hard to get away from someone who loves you. Jesus’ love is like that. Everywhere I turn, if I am quiet enough, I can hear the soft sound of his sandaled feet.
So don’t expect me to be objective about Jesus. And I don’t know how anyone can be objective about Jesus. He simply doesn’t allow it. He forces himself to be the issue, and then he calls for decision. In Matthew, there is a discussion between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus asked his disciples what people were saying about him. They gave Jesus a number of answers. Then Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
Jesus is still going around asking that question. What difference does Jesus make?
I’ve Heard from God
It is the most important and exciting fact of history: the incarnation of God in the man Jesus Christ. The Scripture says, “Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God has come and revealed himself to us by actually entering the time and space of our world.
For thousands of years, mortals looked into the heavens and wondered: Is there a God? And if there is a God, what is he like? Is he a monster demanding the sacrifice of my children? Is he a God who started the machinery of the universe and then just walked away, leaving it to run on its own? Is he a God of love and compassion, or is he a God who has turned his back? Does he care? And then, very hesitantly: Does he care about me?
Does he care? And then, very hesitantly: Does he care about me?
Then God, the God about whom so many had spoken, entered time and space, and the world would never be the same. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).
The hope became a reality. The words took on meaning. The bones took on flesh. God became a human being. God spoke, and for the first time people didn’t have to ask questions and wonder. God had become flesh. The God who created the world, who sustains the world and who controls
its destiny—that God became a human being. The omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God came to a finite world. He became vulnerable to his creation. He became a human being.
My Life Has Meaning
Are you going through a mid-life crisis? Or better said, a life crisis? Do you ever wonder why you keep doing the things you do? Do you sometimes get the feeling that you get up every morning and go to work in order to make enough money to pay the mortgage and buy the food…just so that you’ll have a place to sleep and eat in order to get up in the morning and go to work?
John the Baptist was a man searching for meaning. And he needed to know that truth because he was going to die and he was afraid his death would prove to be meaningless. In his despair, John the Baptist did the only thing he knew to do. He sent his disciples to Jesus with a list of questions—halting, hurting, helpless questions. “Are you the Messiah, or should we go and search out another? Has John wasted his life and ministry?”
Perhaps you have wondered if life has meaning. Perhaps you have had your periods of doubt and fear too. Jesus gives you the same answer he gave John.
Jesus responded: “‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them’” (Luke 7:22).
There is meaning in life because in Jesus’ coming and in his loving there is a demonstration of God’s care for his people. If there is no God, there is no value; if there is no value, there is no meaning; if there is no meaning, then you are a turnip. But there is meaning because God has come and has demonstrated his love for us. And he is still demonstrating his love for us in Christ.
It began in the incarnation. We don’t find platitudes or empty religious language there. We asked God…Are you there? Do you love? How much do you love? And Jesus stretched out his arms on a cross and died. That was the beginning of a pattern, a pattern that points to a God who is really there.
Love can be defined only in terms of what it does. Love, in order to be love, must express itself. The Bible says that God is love; and if that is true, his love must find a tangible expression.
God is love (1 John 4:8). God doesn’t just love; he doesn’t just act in a loving way; he doesn’t just do loving things. He is love. And if God is love, then everything that flows from his being is loving. The world is a manifestation of his love. All creation points to the power of his love.
But God has a number of problems when it comes to loving us…all resolved in Jesus Christ. What do you do if you love someone and they don’t even know you exist? What if they don’t love you back? What if they are unworthy of your love?
Jesus is the perfect manifestation of God’s love (John 15:9, John 3:35, 1 John 4:9). Real love will always act. Jesus is the loving action of God.
And we will never be separated from that love: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
It’s bad news. You are not a good person. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Sin hurts us. Sin divides us from other people. Sin separates us from our holy God. But there is good news. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6,8).
There is no such thing as cheap forgiveness—on our part or on God’s part. Forgiveness always costs. And our being forgiven cost God his son. At the cross, Satan was conquered, death died and our salvation bought. At the cross, Jesus took our sin and declared us forgiven. Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). You don’t have to be guilty anymore. The relationship between you and God can be restored. You can be totally, wonderfully, joyfully accepted and forgiven. We are forgiven.
I Have an Example
Jesus gave us a perfect example and then clearly told us to follow that example. In John 13, Jesus gave a living illustration of service. He washed the disciples’ feet and said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). In John 15:12, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus came to die, but he also came to show us how to die; he came to love us, but he also came to show us how to love others; he came that we might be forgiven, but he also came that we might know how to forgive others. Jesus gave form to the idea of obedience. We knew what to do, but now we know how to do it because Jesus has shown us how.
And that’s not as hard as it first appears. Obedience is simply the response of a child who has been loved. Paul put it this way, “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). As a Christian, your natural desire is to please God—even when you continue to mess up and to struggle—not because he will punish you if you don’t please him, but because of his great love for you. Our obedience comes from freedom, not freedom from obedience.
The example Jesus set was not primarily in his acting, but in his being. The primary impact of the incarnation of God in Christ is the incarnation of God in Christ. Jesus was not obedient so that he could become the Son of God. Rather, he was the Son of God and was thereby obedient. He was not faithful in order to be God incarnate. He was God incarnate and was therefore faithful.
Jesus came simply to be who he was. Likewise, the Christian life, following Christ’s example, is not so much a life of acting, but of being. We are called to abide in Christ in exactly the same way Christ abides in the Father (John 15:4-5, John 17:20-21).
We don’t need to grow in order to abide in Christ; growth comes from abiding in him. So just stay close to Christ.
I’ll Share in His Victory
Jesus told us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). Someday that prayer will be gloriously answered. Someday he will return. Someday the King will claim his sovereign rule: “…the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
Someday a trumpet will sound, and we who belong to the King will look up, and his ultimate reign will begin. He will return. He has promised. And it may be sooner than you think.