Then the World Will See. Then the World Will Know.

The entire prayer of Jesus in John 17 is so rich that I taste a slightly new, always delicious, flavor every time I read it.  Most recently, the tasty morsel was the simple conclusion of Jesus after part of His request for those who didn’t yet know Him.  Effectively, He said to His Father, “If You will do these things I ask of You, the world will believe You have sent me, and will know that you love them just like You love me.”

John 17:20-23 NIV  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jesus’ heartbeat reflects that of His Father – that everyone knows, not merely acknowledges, the life-changing truth of their heavenly Father’s love for them.  The only thing it requires, according to His request, is unity of believers, all of whom have been given His glory.

Though much is written, spoken, and prayed concerning unity in the church, division seems to abound.  For too long, believers have looked more diligently for areas of disagreement and separation than for the Holy Spirit of Jesus in each other.  It cannot remain this way forever, though, because of Jesus’ prayers.  If we chew just a little longer on the simple words found in the last sentence of the passage, we uncover the beginning point of unity in the Spirit, the kind in which we are one just like Jesus and our Father are one.

Then the world will know that you . . . have loved them even as you have loved me. 

The world will see Jesus in His body when we live in His love toward one another.  Yet, how can we so live unless we know beyond verbal acknowledgment the unalterable truth that God loves us as He loves Jesus?

Jesus’ love is the beginning of life in Christ and also its fullness – that life which the world needs to see in action.  Yet, what we understand of His love when we are born again is infinitesimal, giving us opportunity to discover – together – His infinite love in all its aspects.  This is His plan, His heartbeat, His expectation.  That we, believers in Jesus Christ, live day in and day out in true fellowship with all our brothers and sisters – in His love.

Oh, Daddy!  Help us grasp the life-changing revelation of Your love for us in Jesus Christ.  May it be what compels us, rather than doctrine, dogma, or preferred style of worship.  May we no longer resist Your love’s radical life-transforming work in us.  May we allow, instead, all religious barriers between us to be exposed, dismantled, and completely destroyed.  Receiving the continual flooding of Your love, may we freely release it to all our brothers and sisters! 

This is unity, just as Jesus and the Father are One.  Genuine love for one another in Christ.  This is when the world will believe God sent Jesus.  This is when the world will believe He has loved them as He loves Jesus. When our lives express His love in us and for us to one another.

Then the world will believe.  Then the world will know.

More Than Believing?

John 6:28-29   28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

When I read this passage in John, I could go no further.  It’s not that I’ve never read it before.  And it’s not that I’ve never thought more about it.  For some reason, though, I heard what I would likely ask Jesus as a follow-up to His response.  “Yes, I do believe in You, Jesus . . . but what else?”  Or, asked another way, “Yes, and then what do I do?”  Both questions reveal that I really don’t believe as fully as I think, because I think He didn’t tell all of God’s requirements.  Yet, His answer to me would remain, “Believe in the One He has sent,” or, “Only believe.”

I know I’m not alone as I struggle with this simple answer that is contrary to the self-defeating mindset that I must do something to be in God’s good standing besides “just” believing.  But that’s just it.  The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that He has done it all.  He has paid the price for me, for us, to be in good standing with our heavenly Father forever, and there is nothing that will ever change this truth.  Even if I never pray again, never read the Bible again, never fellowship with other believers again, never worship, praise,  . . . you get the picture.  If I truly believe in the One He sent, in Jesus Christ the Savior, I have done all Daddy requires.

Now, if I only believe in Jesus and His finished work, never reading the Bible, praying, etc., I won’t come to know Him more intimately.  Just as with human relationships, deepening relationship with Jesus requires time and effort.   In the same way, though, if I do those things in an effort to prove something to God, myself, and others about my sincerity (or some other equally wrong reason), I don’t know Jesus any better either, because it’s all for the wrong reason – I must, I should, I have to – rather than just to know the One Who did it for me already.

Somewhere between not doing anything at all, and doing it for the wrong reason is the reality of the gospel.  The reality says when you really believe in Jesus and what He has done, you will want to know Him more, and want to understand more fully what He has already done for you.  Then, the more you know Him and grasp what He has done, the more you want to pray, read His Word, praise, worship, love as He loves, fellowship, forgive, etc.

I really do understand this.  But there is still a big part of me that wants to do the works for all the wrong reasons.  Though I’ve been walking out of it little-by-little, Holy Spirit has arrested me with these two simple verses in John.  Maybe my Daddy says it’s time for me to step completely out of the bondage of a works mentality and into a much greater place of freedom in Christ.  I’m just going to believe.  What about you?

To know Christ and to make Him known – not because we have to, but want to, for we believe in Jesus, Whom our Father has sent!

Pure and Simple

For the shortest blog I’ll probably ever post, its simple truth will make a permanent impact in sharing the gospel with others.  If you want to personalize it, add your choice of verses and explanation for each statement, but Holy Spirit gave it to me like this:

God is.

God is love.

God loves.

 

Through the Eye of the Needle

Matthew 19:23-26 NIV  23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”  26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

If you are like me, you read this story about the rich young man many times, picturing the tiny eye of a sewing needle you had seen around the house.  It made sense at the time, because a camel wouldn’t be able to get through that at all.  The more familiar I became with the story, however, the more the sewing needle picture didn’t work for me, since Jesus didn’t say it was an impossibility.  Then came the day when someone taught that this eye of the needle was actually an opening, not the full-sized gate, in the wall around a city.  For a camel to go through this eye, the load it carried had to be removed.  I understood, but still had to use my imagination.  Then came Israel . . .

As I toured Nazareth Village – a re-creation of what the life and times of Jesus would have been as he lived in Nazareth – I was excited to go through an actual eye of the needle.  Now it is not just something I imagined, but is tangible.  Now it is real for me and can be for anyone else who sees this picture!  Combining my camel ride (getting a hands-on experience of size) with stepping through this opening, I understand more vividly what Jesus was saying.  An empty camel would have a hard time getting through, as would a wealthy person who insisted on holding tightly to his belongings.

To avoid hitting my head when going through the eye, I had to bend over.  At the same time, to avoid tripping and falling, I had to lift my feet higher over the raised opening.  What a perfect picture Jesus painted for us.  It’s not impossible to enter the kingdom of heaven, but the only possible way is God’s – through Jesus Christ and His blood.  Now I can see more clearly what I couldn’t so many years ago, as I humbled myself to receive Him, leaving all my worldly works and goods behind.  Jesus had carried me through to our Father, where there are riches beyond compare!

Praise God!  That we might know Christ and make Him known – through the eye of the needle.

Return to Simplicity

It occurs to me, as I ponder questions about how God operates – if He operates in this way or that way, why He doesn’t do this or that, etc. – that I have left the underlying and overriding Truth of salvation.  After all, what has God done in salvation?  He has sent Jesus to earth to take on my sin – past, present, and future – to suffer the excruciating agony of separation from His Father because of my sin, which actually makes the physical suffering pale in comparison (Yes, it does!) – simply so I could be born again into life in eternal relationship with Our Father!

John 3:16 NIV  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

When I simplify the whole Christian life equation, removing all the variables and all the unknowns (possibly never-knowns this side of eternity), my perspective becomes clear once again.  If Jesus would do this for me – and He did; and if Our Father would send Him to suffer for me this way – and He did; why do I insist on getting so caught up in but, what about?  God is fully trustworthy and so unlimited by my limited mind and its understanding!

Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP  5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  6 In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

When I allow myself to focus on the things I don’t or can’t understand, at least for now, I begin to doubt (read this distrust) Him and His goodness, and even His motives.  But God is good!  Period.  He has given His all for all – even if I am the only one who ever received what He gave (and I know I’m not).  And He is trustworthy, even when I don’t understand.  He gave me His Word.  He gave me His Son.  He gave me His very life!

John 10:10 NIV  . . . I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

2 Chronicles 6:41 NIV  Now arise, O Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.  May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, may your saints rejoice in your goodness.

I choose to return to the simplicity of what God has done for me.  He’s given me life.  He’s given me salvation in Jesus Christ.  Praise our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!