- From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove
God's Story, The Bible
The Bible is a beautifully woven tapestry, with many threads weaving through it, one of those threads being God's desire to live with us. In Genesis, He lived with His first two created humans until they chose to live without Him. Then, throughout the Old Testament, His prophets told us Immanuel, defined as "God with us," was coming to give us another opportunity, Is 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." At the beginning of the New Testament, Immanuel came, and we hung Him on a cross. Choosing, again, to live without God. However, Jesus left us a vision, Matt 24:30-31, "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." It will be both the most joyous occasion and the saddest moment in history. Finally, in Revelation He confirms He will live for all eternity with His people, Rev 21:3, "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."
Jn 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Before we attempt to reason with the Truth of the Bible, we must first be honest with ourselves. We have all sinned, Rom 8:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" None of us is fit to live for all eternity with a perfect God and His family, Matt 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Only our belief in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross can save us, Rom 10:9-10, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." When we overcome the illusion, we are worthy, we will reason with His Truth, which is our only hope of making it to the wedding, Matt 22:8, "Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy." Our pride keeps us from the cross and His wisdom, Ps 10:4, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts." Our world wants us to feel pride, surely, we are better than other people. Better is not good enough. Look around this world, is this heaven? Why not? Because we are not yet perfect, Eph 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Jesus' love drove Him to suffer the pain and humiliation of the cross to bring us His gift of salvation. With this in mind, let us reason with the perfect Word of God, Jer 33:3, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
Matt 24:4-5, "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many." Believing in a false version of Jesus, rather than the one He told us He is, deceives us and leads us away from Him. This is why He told the Pharisees, Matt 23:31-33, "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" some of us will hear something similar on the day of judgment, Matt 7:21-23, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Playing religion with a false version of Jesus will not save us.
The cross is the visible sign and constant reminder of our acts of war against God, which required His sacrifice, Jam 4:2, "Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not." God wants us to compare His love, which led Jesus to that cross, with the hatred and defiance we demonstrated when we nailed Him to it. Jesus blotted out our sins on that cross, Col 2:14-15, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." Can we feel the passion of His victory, as He allowed His sweat and blood to fall? The triumph of His love over the selfishness and hatred we harbor. Of course, this world sees it as God's defeat. Those who love Jesus, know He could have come down from that cross. However, His love for us, not those nails, kept Him on it. The reality of the cross screams that we can no longer hide our guilt, for God has exposed it, contrasting it to the greatness of His love. On the cross, He freely gave His unconditional love, drawing His last breath, to save His enemies, Lk 23:34, "Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots." We see His enemies driving those nails into His hands and feet; however, how many times have we been His enemy? Have we ever walked past a person in need without helping? Have we ever justified lying, or harmed someone, either physically or mentally? Have we ever allowed our pride to elevate us above others? Have we ever abused our power, rather than using it to serve others? Have we ever declared our allegiance to a cause that regularly breaks His commandments, or mocks Jesus, as those who surrounded Him did while He endured those fake trials or hung on that cross? Are the leaders of these causes living the fruit of the spirit and projecting love or hatred? Matt 25:40, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Is there any doubt about our worthiness?
Can we not see the singularity of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross? A King, riding toward the cross on a donkey, while lovingly ministering to everyone along the way. Does He not deserve more than our mocking or cursory glances? Matt 27:41-42, "Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him." He only asks us to reason with Him, Is 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." so we might discover the Truth He is God, Jn 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." He has given us a lifetime to understand. Most of us spend this life ignoring Him and all He has done for us, Eze 18:32, "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye." What will we say to Him when we look Him in the eye on judgment day, and He asks us, "What have you done with the life I gave you?" Remember, He already knows all we have done, including our secrets, Rom 2:16, "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." and He still loves us.
Jesus is our only hope of being saved, 2 Cor 4:4, "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." for our fruitless attempts at righteousness, without Him, are merely filthy rags, Is 64:6, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." Can we take a moment to imagine the absurdity of trying to explain to Jesus how many good things we have done to earn our way into heaven? Our best without Him, leaves us in darkness, and without hope. This is where the devil lives, in that darkness, in the shadows feasting on those of us who are lost and without hope, 1 Pet 5:8, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:"
God has been telling us this story for 6,000 years. He calls us to an eternity of love and joy, and He is the only way to get there, Jn 14:6, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Does this offend us? The only way? If I told someone the only way to get from Seattle to South Africa in a day was by plane, would they be offended? No, because we both know it is true. So, if Jesus offends us, it is because we do not yet know He is God. Or, we know He is God, and are still trying to hide our shame from Him. And, here is the dividing line, which will determine who will be in heaven. God wants to live with those who want to live with Him. If we do not wish to follow His Will in this life, He will not subject us to an eternity of it. If we choose to drive a car to South Africa, He will not stop us. God is gentle. If He forced us, we would only infect heaven, leading everyone back to another chaotic world, just another version of this one. It is that simple.
Why do we risk our eternal future on the opinions of those who do not believe? Matt 14:31, "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
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