Laboring to Enter Rest?

Nothing gets me charged up for a new day or a new week than reflecting on the magnificent truth that I am a new being in Jesus Christ!

Everything that once separated me from God was completely removed at the Cross of Christ!  It was there, that God rescued us out of “the dominion of darkness” and placed us “in the kingdom of the Son of His love!” (Col 1:13)

The term that Paul uses, “dominion of darkness,” is not referring to your former sinful life.  It’s referring to a “darkened” understanding of just how complete & personal His work of redemption was.  Darkness “keeps you in the dark” about how completely & absolutely innocent and blameless you are in the sight of God!  In darkness, it makes no sense to us that God could love us; let alone that He would love us as equally as He does Jesus.  Darkness robs us of the reality that you & I are “in Christ!”  Darkness makes us feel we are still lacking.  But in the kingdom of the Son of His love; when you come into the Light– you “see”–“hey, wait a minute….how can I be lacking anything” when the Scriptures shout, “CHRIST IN YOU” and “you are COMPLETE IN HIM.”

The Gospel dispels darkness.  It is the “good news” that God successfully reconciled us to a place of restored oneness & union with Himself.  The Greek word for “reconcile” means we have been “decisively changed from one position to another.”  In other words, we are no longer separated from God, we are joined to Him!

“He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him”  (1 Cor 6:17)

“In that day, you will know that I am in My Father and you are in me & I am in you.” ( Jn 14:20)

You can’t get much closer than that!  You can’t get much closer than being in union!

There is no separation or distance in union.  Dave, are you saying we’re God?  No!  Biblical union is a union with distinction.  Paul illustrates it by marriage in Ephesians 5:31.  He says, paraphrasing, “marriage reflects this union; a man separates himself from his parents to be joined to his wife and two separate people become merged into one new identity.”

So, that being true, why as Christians, do we seem to be spending so much of our time trying to “get closer to God?”  Since we are, in Christ, “joined to Him?”

Do you feel like you spend a lot of your time trying to “get closer to God?”  Or “feel” closer to God?

The Bible says–you don’t need to get closer to God.  You are as close to God as you can get!  You are flesh of His flesh and  bone of His bone. (Eph 5:30)  Nothing you can do can improve your standing before God or help you get closer to Him!  You & I can stop our futile and unnecessary efforts to get closer to God and instead rejoice in the complete and unbreakable union that is ours now because of what our glorious Savior Jesus Christ has done for us & to us.  Hallelujah!

Jesus removed the distance between us and God caused by Adam’s fall.  The union that Adam lost on humanity’s behalf;  Jesus has restored.

You are fully connected to the Vine as a branch.  You are fully connected to the Head as a member of His body. You and Jesus are inseparable.   We’re really confessing our ignorance of the Word when we ask Jesus to “please be with me today” when we do this or that.  He goes everywhere you go!  The Head and the body are joined.  Every day & every moment.

You’ve got to realize, God is not uncomfortable being in union with you. He is totally “at home” in you.   God is totally pleased with you being His dwelling place; His “address.”

God is so pleased–the Bible says, He’s at “rest!”  Another way to say that is–He is satisfied.

C.S. Lewis in his book, The Weight of Glory, said “If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with it’s self.”

John Piper says “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

It reminds me of  Eph. 2:5-6 in the Message translation: “immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us.  He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us!”

In other words, God prefers we wouldn’t dilute the finished work of the cross by adding anything to it.

There’s nothing we can or should do to add to the already perfect and complete work of our union with God through Jesus Christ.

It is not our job to exert any “labor” to get closer to God.

But doesn’t the Bible say that we are to “labor” to enter God’s rest?

“Let us LABOR therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.”  Heb. 4:11  KJV
It sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  “Labor” in order to “rest?”
The Greek word translated LABOR is “SPOUDAZO” (Strongs’ #4704) from the root word “SPOUDE” (Strongs #4710).  It means, “make haste, move swiftly, as fast as you can, immediately.”
In the Greek,  Heb. 4:11 says:  “Make haste, move quickly, don’t waste another minute– enter into His Rest!”
Read it in the context of verses 9 & 10:
9 “So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their laborsjust as God did after creating the world.”  Heb 4:9-10 NLT
Heb. 4:11 isn’t saying: “LABOR,” but conversely, CEASE from your own labors!
Our own labor cannot add to the absolutely perfect, finished work of Christ.
You cannot add to perfection.
God’s REST celebrates His PERFECT work & FINISHED work in you!

That doesn’t mean “there’s nothing for us to do.”  We still have more maturing &  growing up to do.  Such as growing in our understanding of this wonderful union.  When a branch grows on one of our rose bushes at home; the number of blossoms on that branch grow as well.  Just like that rose bush–our ever growing revelation and understanding of our union with Christ causes a greater diffusion of the wonderful fragrance of Christ to manifest in our lives.

As our understanding grows, love and gratitude grows.  Every time I enjoy fellowship with the Lord by reading the Scriptures or praying or focusing on His indwelling–my understanding of just how great a salvation I have, causes “joy unspeakable” to well up in my heart towards God to where I feel like I’m going to explode with joy on the inside of me!

Do you know what I mean?

Being “complete in Him” does not mean we become idle or lazy.  The fact that in Christ, I am “perfect & lacking nothing” has never been translated in my mind as “I don’t have to read my Bible, I don’t have to pray, I don’t have to go to church, I don’t have to share the gospel…”

I don’t HAVE TO; I WANT TO!!

I want His fullness in me to ooze out of every pore of my being!  I’ve been invited to indulge in a feast of righteousness that He has prepared for me.  He has prepared a table before me and I come every day with an appetite!

Being “complete in Him” doesn’t mean you can live your life any way you please.  YOU don’t have a life any more.  Did you miss Jesus’ disclaimer about being a Christian?  He said, make sure you “count the cost.” (Lk 14:28)  A disciple must “take up his cross” to follow Him. That means you realize that YOU died when & where Jesus died.   Your old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ.  (Rom 6:6)  Grace doesn’t mean “oh well, God’s cool with my life now” —  “I can still smoke pot, I can still sleep with my girlfriend.”  That may be your definition of grace but it’s not God’s!  (read Rom 6:1-2)  Grace is not God looking the other way when you sin.  Sin has negative consequences whether you’re a Christian or not.  God’s Grace is a Person–Jesus Christ living His life in us!

I like what John Crowder said in his book, Mystical Union: “If you are exploiting the grace of God–sinning under the guise of your perfection–please do the rest of us a favor and stop calling yourself a Christian.”

Yes, the Gospel says you are accepted in the beloved, no matter what you’ve done or what you do, but living a totally self centered life proves you are totally ignorant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s no longer about you; it’s all about Him.

Christianity has never been about your life.  Christianity is about HIS LIFE IN YOU; AS YOU!

“It’s no longer I who lives; it’s Christ who lives in me”  (Gal 2:20)

I like the Distilled Bible translation of that verse:  “I consider myself to have died, and now my existence is just Jesus using my body.”

The Father’s every expectation for us was fulfilled in His Son!  You & I can stop “our labors” and “our striving” and simply join the Father, Son & Spirit in their celebration of our perfect redemption and union together with them!!

Being in union with God is a glorious truth.  When you learn to rest and abide in that place of union that is yours in Jesus Christ–your life becomes a constant celebration of your redeemed innocence in you Father’s eyes!
Make today a day of celebrating the success of the cross!  And tell someone why you’re smiling!
Advertisements

Reflections on Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and wow–was I blessed by my family!  I got to preach at a good friend’s church in the morning, and then spend great family time with my wife and kids & grandson–grilling, laughing, sharing gifts.  It got me thinking about our radically wonderful relationship with God, our Father.  We give gifts to our earthly fathers on Father’s Day. Isn’t it amazing that our Heavenly Father has given the perfect gift to each one of us:  the unspeakable gift of His Son, Jesus Christ and His Righteousness!

It’s interesting that there are only about 15 or so references in the entire Old Testament to God as Father.  Yet in John’s Gospel alone, there are over 100 references to God as Father. Over 170 in all four Gospels and more than 250 in the entire New Testament.

When we talk about God being our Father–for many, that can conjure up a distorted view of God.  Either because of some Old Testament verses or because our earthly father might not have been a nice man, or may have never been around, so we have difficulty imagining God as a loving Father.

God is not only loving; He IS Love. (1 Jn 4:8,16)  And His love is above & beyond and unlike any human concept of love or experience we have had with our own earthly father.

Love to us is an emotion; a feeling.  It can certainly be a wonderful feeling to love and to be loved and know you are loved.  Love is much more than merely an emotion to God.  Love is who He is and is expressed by what He does.  The love of God is manifested and demonstrated to us in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and ultimately at the Cross.

James 1:17  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” NKJV

We often think, Jesus came to change God’s mind about man; when in fact, Jesus came to change man’s mind about God!  

Jesus came to reveal the Father!

Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”

He revealed & displayed a relationship with God that was revolutionary. Unparalleled.  Everything He said & did, was to reveal the Father to us:  “This is how you should pray.”  When you pray…..say….”our Father!”  In other words, call God, “your Father!”

The religious leaders wanted to kill Him, for calling God His Father!  That represented a familiarity; a relationship with God that no one would ever presume was even remotely possible for a man & God.  They had no concept that long before the foundation of the world, God the Father has been passionately in love with His Son. It’s almost impossible to describe the nature and character of this love. Love that is far more than just feelings. Love that is Life itself–Divine Substance.  And that love has been eternally focused on the Son.  At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from heaven– “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 3:17)  At that point, Jesus had done nothing to warrant or “earn” God’s love.  He was purely loved as a Son.

There are many verses that describe & illustrate Jesus’ relationship with His Father:

Jn 3:35  “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand”

Jn 8:29  “I always do the things that please my Father.”

Jn 10:30  “I and my Father are one.”

We can say, Hooray for Jesus!!  And view that relationship as a spectator or an outsider.  But Jesus didn’t come so that we would remain spectators–He came to invite us into this very relationship of Father-Son in the Spirit.

Listen to Jesus’ words to us:

Jn 16:27  “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved Me.”

Jn 20:17  “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

Jesus actually said, in Matt 23:9  “call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.”

It’s such an important thing to grasp and it’s so life transforming to know you are loved by the Heavenly Father.  But, it can be really hard to believe it.  Why is that?

Because we look at ourselves and our life and it just seems impossible that God could really feel that way about ME. You might believe the theology of it.  Or you might feel it would be true if you DID something (like read the Bible more, or prayed more, or fasted or witnessed, or if you STOPPED doing something), and you’ve tried that route, but eventually failed, so in your head, you disqualified yourself.

We think we know ourselves too well for us to walk with a conviction that God truly loves ME. So, it stays a doctrine that you say amen to…but in your head, you can’t help but think “how could He love ME like that?”

One of our most basic needs as humans is the need for appreciation.  The need to be loved.  We long for it.  Nothing harms a relationship or self image more than feeling unappreciated or taken for granted.

The word, appreciate means “to recognize full worth.”  It’s a Latin word that literally means “the appraised price” or the full price on the price tag.

It has been said that the value of something is based on the price someone is willing to pay to get it.  God saw enough value in every person to justify the price He paid for humanity’s redemption from sin, guilt, fear, and shame.  He successfully redeemed His image and likeness in us.  God paid the FULL PRICE FOR US!

Matt 13:44  “The kingdom from heaven is like treasure hidden in a field that a man found and hid. In his excitement he went and sold everything he had and bought that field.”  NIV

Your personality (the reflection of God’s image & likeness in you) is the “treasure” hidden in the field, that the Father spent all that He had to purchase you!

The Gospel is the revelation of how God paid the highest price for us.   God knows you, and has always “known you”  (Jer 1:5a “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”).  He’s known you & loved you, before you had any opportunity to impress Him OR disappoint Him.  He knew you before He formed you and what He knew about you then, is still His only reference about who you are!  Nothing that you have done, that you thought would impress Him or disappoint Him has changed His mind about you!  He knows your original “value” and He has paid the highest price to redeem ownership of your life in order to persuade you and convince you, of what He believes about you!  How much He loves and values you!

God sees the value of each one of us!  And always has.

From all eternity, God has never been alone and solitary, but lives as Father, Son, and Spirit in a glorious relationship of absolute Oneness. There is no judgement in this circle. The Trinity’s life is like a ‘dance’ of communion and intimacy.  That life is passionate, self-giving, other-centered and delightful. This life is good.  It is unique, it is “holy” which means “apartness; there’s nothing like it”.  It’s full of joy, blessing and peace. Such love, and fellowship is the womb of the universe and of humanity.

The stunning truth is that the triune God, in amazing and extravagant love, determined to open the circle and share their inner life with us. This is the one reason for the creation of the universe and of human life.   Before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son, and Spirit set their love upon us and planned for us to share and know and experience their life.

For this reason they spoke the universe into being, and the human race was created. Adam and Eve were given a place in the coming of Jesus Christ, in and through whom the dream of our being included would be accomplished.

Before creation, it was decided that the Son would cross every gulf between the triune God and humanity and establish a real and abiding relationship with us–one of union. Jesus was predestined to be the Mediator, the One through whom the very life of the triune God would enter our life, and we would be lifted up to share in their’s.

When Adam and Eve fell, darkness and misery entered into God’s creation, but the Father, Son, and Spirit did not abandon their dream; instead, they incorporated our darkness and sin into their plan of inclusion. The Son became human.  He submitted himself to our anger and blindness and suffered a murderous death at our hands.  Jesus established a real and abiding relationship with fallen humanity at our very worst—and He brought his Father and the Holy Spirit with Him. It was in Jesus, and in His death at our hands, that the Trinity tabernacled in our hell on earth, in our brokenness, shame, and sin, and in so doing included us into their life.

In the life, death, resurrection & ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit made His way into human pain & blindness and brought deliverance & healing. Now the Spirit works to reveal Jesus in us so that we can each personally meet Him, and know His Father with Him. The Holy Spirit helps us know and experience Jesus’ own relationship with his Father and live with Jesus in the Father’s embrace.

We’ve made being a Christian a lifestyle of rules & doctrines,

when being a Christian is being brought into a

relationship that has existed for all eternity.

You & I have been brought into the One who is the eternal object of affection in the Father’s heart!

You & I have become a partaker of the eternal, indescribable, unspeakable love that flows from God the Father…… to God the Son……. by God the Holy Spirit.  You & I are floating in the middle of that River of Love!

There is not anything that you could ever do to either earn or to disqualify you from the Father’s love.  Paul says, “NOTHING can separate us from the love of God!”  (Rom 8:39)

Before you or I could ever do anything to earn or disqualify ourselves…..Christ died for us!

God says, “Son or daughter, I created you in my image & likeness!  I am the One that gave you life and sustains it every moment of every day!  It’s in Me that you live and move & have your being!”

We each create & hold on to a self-imposed identity or image of ourselves.  We’re like the prodigal son, “But Father, I’ve done all these bad things.  I’m not worthy.”  There is a greater reality about your life than your opinion of it; than your behavior or the life you’ve lived so far.

It’s about your IDENTITY as a Son or Daughter.

The Father’s image of you in Christ is more relevant than anything that has ever happened in your past, is happening to you now, or will happen in the future.  If anything has happened in your life that has caused pain, shame, fear, anger, resentment, self pity or regret—it is now past tense and history.

Whoever you thought you were; or someone made you become…..Paul says, Behold, in Christ, “all things have been made new!”  It’s time to stop focusing on the old and focus on the new.

Your true and original value has been redeemed in Jesus Christ.  

Your identity or value is not based on what you do or don’t do; it’s based on what Jesus has already done!  

Giving us the very life of the Son as our own life is the revelation of what being a Christian is all about.

YOU & I HAVE BEEN SWEPT INTO A TIDAL WAVE OF ETERNAL LOVE BETWEEN THE TRINITY BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN BROUGHT INTO THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST.

What an amazing Father’s Day gift!

It’s your’s today and everyday!

Two Defining Views (ours & God’s)

Earlier this year, my senior pastor, Lloyd Rindels, prophesied that 2013 would be a “year of breakthrough.”  I thought I knew what “breakthrough” meant, until I looked it up & found there are two different definitions for the word:

“BREAKTHROUGH”  1.  an act or instance of breaking through an obstacle.   2. a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.   Whoa, that second one really struck me!

One of the greatest “breakthroughs” you can have in your life is to allow God to change how you view everything about yourself and your life–from YOUR perspective to HIS perspective.

Because doing that–living from His Perspective–will forever, change the way you think about yourself, the way you think about God and the way you think about life in general.  Discovering what the Father knows to be true about you, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:12,  “TO KNOW, AS I AM KNOWN.”

“God has always known us; now in Christ He invites us to know ourselves even as we are known!” (Francois du Toit, author of the Mirror Bible)

God is excited about your life!  God’s desire is for YOU to know what He knows about YOU.   He wants you & I to see our life the way He does, which is seeing yourself “in Christ,” not having a life of your own.  In Phil 3:9, Paul talks about being “found” in Christ, discovering yourself in Christ.  Turning from your own ways and your own way of seeing things and seeing this Glorious One who has become your life.

Everything God has in His mind about YOU is “in Christ.”  If you see what the Father sees.

When you look at yourself in a mirror, what do you see?  Do you see an average (or perhaps a less than average) man or woman?  Or do you see “the righteousness of God in Christ?”  More than likely you have no trouble seeing yourself as insecure, inadequate, or lacking.  But you have trouble seeing yourself as righteous, holy & blameless.

God sees all things according to the truth.  Jesus came to destroy every lie so that we can know the truth.  The truth of sonship. The truth of new life, a joined life in Christ (1 Cor 6:17).

Joy comes when WE see what the Father sees.  

Isn’t it wonderful knowing that life in Christ is not trying to imitate Jesus?

You talk about “having a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery.”  It’s when you discover, salvation is a union with the Son of God!  Not just a salvation from our sins or from hell. But a salvation from everything that is not Christ.

Let me repeat, everything that God has in His mind about you, today, and how’s He’s always thought about you is: “in Christ”.  You & I think we know ourselves; but we really don’t really know ourselves, until we know ourselves “in Him”.

In Jn 14:20 Jesus said,   “On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

God has placed you in Christ and Christ in you!

Without seeing yourself defined by your union with Jesus, you’re going to relate to God, to yourself and other people, with a totally inferior–what the Bible calls ”unrenewed” mind-set.

If you feel frustrated about your life as a Christian, it is a result of not seeing yourself defined by your union with Jesus.

Do you wonder why you still waiver with unbelief and doubt and condemnation?  You’re not seeing yourself defined by your union with Jesus.  You’re not seeing yourself as the Father sees you–in Christ.   JESUS IS NOW YOUR LIFE. Paul says in Phil. 1:21, “for me to live is Christ.”  Have you read Romans 6 & Galatians 2:20?  You don’t have a life anymore!

Christianity is Jesus living His life through you, not you living your life for Him.

Amen?  You may say “amen,” but let me ask you something that might really push your paradigm…

Is Sinless Perfection Possible in this life?  “NO WAY” you say.  “Not in MY LIFE.”  Exactly!!  But we’re not talking about YOUR life.  Did Jesus say to the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin less?”  He told her, “go and sin no more.”   In John 5:14- Jesus said the same thing to the man at the pool of Bethesda!  Jesus knew something about the life of our design that we don’t have sight of yet.  It’s all about understanding that the life the Father revealed in Jesus is the life the Holy Spirit now conducts in you & me!   We must stop seeing ourselves & living as one’s separate; and be seeing & living as one’s JOINED!

At the Cross separation with God was replaced with oneness.  Oneness is not the result of our diligence to get closer to God, but because of His initiative in reconciling humanity to Himself.

Until we see and understand that everything of the Christian life– righteousness, holiness, sanctification, love, joy, peace, etc. is defined by this Person who is now our life, in whom we are joined, we’ll think we need to go out and DO righteousness, DO sanctification, DO holiness. And on & on.

Our carnal, un-renewed mind reads Scripture as things we need to do or shouldn’t do.

But righteousness is not something you DO.  Righteousness is Christ in you!  RIGHTEOUSNESS IS A PERSON.

EVERYTHING of your life & your identity is now IS DEFINED BY HIM!

We see ourselves apart from Christ when God sees us defined by Him, IN UNION with Jesus.

Paul says in Eph. 5 It’s just like marriage–two separate people now merged into one new identity. 

I pray today, you begin to see yourself as the Father sees you!  Joined to Christ.  One with Him!

The Cross of Christ redefines your life!

 

The Triumphant Entry (Palm Sunday)

I was supposed to preach at my church yesterday for Palm Sunday, but the service was cancelled because of  a snow storm.  I was going to speak on Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem:

“And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  “Hosanna to the Son of David!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  Hosanna in the highest!  And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, this is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”   Mt 21:8-11 NKJV

This day certainly marked a “triumphant” breakthrough for the disciples.  Up until this day, they had they been trying to convince Jesus to reveal Himself; to proclaim who He was,  and in all their previous attempts, Jesus kept saying, No!  But today, He says, OK, go get a donkey for me–I’ll into ride into Jerusalem!

The disciples were surely ecstatic and thinking, YES!  It’s time for the people to recognize what we’ve known all along and hail Him as King of the Jews.  He’s gonna do it!  He’s going to reveal Himself as Messiah!

But, Jesus wasn’t looking for that kind of accolade.  In fact, just before His Triumphant Entry He says, “I came not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give My life as a ransom.”  Matt 20:28

I’m sure the disciples thought they had talked Jesus into it, by their initiative, but the initiative to reveal Himself has always been completely the Lord’s:

“I’ve made myself available
to those who haven’t bothered to ask.
I’m here, ready to be found
by those who haven’t bothered to look.
I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’
to a nation that ignored me.
I reached out day after day
to a people who turned their backs on me”  Is 65:1  MSG

It occurred to me that at Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem,  there were in fact two distinct “views” of what was taking place.  What the disciples and the crowds were witnessing and what the Father saw.

Jesus Himself says in Luke’s account, ”If you’d only known that today is your day, but you don’t see it!” Lk 19:42

For example, the fact that Jesus came riding on a donkey.  All of the Gospels mention He did;  Matthew & John make it a point that Jesus did this fulfilling the prophesy of Zech. 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” ESV   But John says in his Gospel, the disciples didn’t remember that at the time!  They didn’t have a clue, they were a part of fulfilling prophesy!  They probably thought, He’s just tired of walking, since it was about 19 miles from Jericho to Jerusalem.  John says it wasn’t until after the Cross that it dawned on them.

The only thing on the disciples mind was Jesus is about to make things “right!”  Whereas the Father knew Jesus was about to make all things “NEW.”

The disciples looked at Jesus as the Messiah of their own dreams and wishful thinking. “Who is this?”  Jesus, our Conqueror!!  The shouting and placing of palm branches in His path were typical expressions of honor given to military conquerors arriving back from a successful conquest.   Surely they were thinking, we are celebrating the soon to come conquest of the pagan Roman empire.   To them it was only a matter of time before Israel would conquer Rome and every enemy to the Jewish nation.  “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee,” the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!  They saw Jesus as their immediate political deliverer; “they thought that the kingdom of God was on the verge of appearing.”  Lk 19:11

But the Father saw a Spiritual Deliverer. The Father saw, not the dawning of a new political order, but a NEW COVENANT!  Jesus–not as a Lion, but as THE LAMB OF GOD.

Could it be that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just before the Passover, was the Father bringing His Lamb for a symbolic “inspection”, fulfilling the requirement at Passover of having a perfect Passover Lamb?  You remember, about 3 years earlier, John the Baptist rightfully identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God Who came to take way the sin of the world.”  Jn 1:29

Sitting on a donkey, prophetically speaking of when “having made purification for sins, He sat down!” Heb 1:3

“Who is this?”  “The one you’ve all heard about, the one that raised Lazarus from the dead!” John points out that many that came to Jerusalem for this Passover, had heard about the miracle and they wanted to see Jesus and see Lazarus for themselves.

But if they saw what the Father saw—they would have realized they were looking at the unthinkable.  They were LOOKING at the Invisible God!  The very I AM–the Life that was with the Father from the beginning!  In the Incarnation, the Invisible God, for the first time in history, made Himself VISIBLE.  The Word that always was; Incarnate BEFORE THEIR VERY EYES!

I can’t help but think of Job 42:5–“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now MY EYES SEE THEE.”

Had they been able to see what the Father sees.

The same Jesus, but seen through different eyes!

Two Views.

Man’s understanding; God’s understanding. Our knowledge; God’s knowledge.  Two views of reality.  Two defining views; Two different Views.

I find it interesting, that as Jesus & the disciples are walking from Jericho to Jerusalem, on their way to His Triumphant Entry, Matthew’s Gospel points out, Jesus was confronted by two blind men. “What do you want for Me to do for you?”  “Lord, that our eyes might be opened.”

And Jesus healed them.  Those blind men experienced a serious breakthrough.

The Triumphant Entry, Palm Sunday was a breakthrough day.  No doubt about that.  Although in the mind of the disciples,  they envisioned their “breakthrough” playing out in a different way than it did in the next week.

Did you know there are two different definitions for the word, breakthrough? 

“BREAKTHROUGH”  1.  an act or instance of breaking through an obstacle   2. a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development.  ( I really like that one!)

One of the greatest breakthroughs you can have in your life is allow God to change how you view things….from YOUR perspective to HIS perspective.  Because living from His perspective will forever, change the way you think about yourself, think about God, think about other people and the world around you.  Discovering what the Father knows to be true about you!  As Paul says, 1 Cor 13:12–TO KNOW, AS YOU ARE KNOWN.

TO SEE AS THE FATHER SEES.

One last point.

Of course, it was “right”–to hail Him and worship Him as King!  Jesus Himself said, that if the multitudes did not worship Him, the rocks would cry out!

What the Father did not deem “right” was, on that day, everyone in the crowd were merely spectators.  God is not interested in just drawing a crowd, He’s looking for participants. He is not satisfied with people staying on the side lines in their commitment to Him.  The Father is looking for partakers of Christ; partakers of His Life.

God is not pleased with, nor the least bit interested in distance or separation. That’s why Jesus came!

Jesus came not just as the promised Messiah, but as the mediator to draw all men into the very eternal union between the Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus came to reconcile (“reunite; to bring back together”) God and man; therefore abolishing any distance, every excuse they or we could have to keep us separated from God.

THAT is worthy of our celebration!

He owns the applause displayed in the church and confirmed in Christ Jesus.  The encore continues throughout every generation, not only of this age, but also of the countless ages to come.” Eph 3:21 Mirror

Amen!

Glad tidings of great joy

Heb 1:1-3a  “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” NIV

When Jesus was born, the God that created the universe and Whom the universe cannot contain, was seen “contained” in a little human baby body!  The invisible God became visible to the eyes of men, not as the appearance of a cloud or pillar of fire, but in a human person!

Have you ever stopped to think how absolutely amazing that is?

God became a man without ceasing to be God!

Jesus came, not as a prophet to simply tell us about God, but as the flawless expression of God.  Jesus is the exact reflection of the Father–His perfect “mirror image.”  Man can no longer make guesses about God or choose their own concepts about Him.

Whatever you may have thought about God, that isn’t like Jesus; isn’t God.

The Apostle John called Jesus, God’s “Word” (Jn 1:1), the “voice” of God, God’s direct “conversation” with mankind. Everything God wants to say is said in Christ.  Not in the sense that God is no longer talking, but everything God wants to communicate is captured in Christ.  What did God say to us in His Word?

“I LOVE YOU.” (Jn 3:16)

The Apostle John also adds this staggering statement, “The Word BECAME flesh.”  (Jn 1:14)  Notice John didn’t say, “put on flesh,” to one day, put down His humanity, and return to His place as wholly God.  The Incarnation was not for God to sample what it’s like to be human. He “BECAME flesh.”  Jesus did not simply endure being a human for 33 years and then, with great relief, returned to being the Second Person of the Godhead.  The Bible says that Jesus is still a man and will always be a man, to exist into Eternity as a man.  The Incarnation was permanent.

God told Moses, that “no man can see Me and live” (Ex 33:20).  John says in his first Epistle, “we saw Him; we touched Him; we talked to Him,” and lived to tell about it!  (1 Jn 1:1)  They didn’t die!  In fact, the revelation of the Father’s love for mankind demonstrated in Christ, filled John and the others with a contagious joy that demanded they share this encounter and joy with others.

1 Jn 1:3-4  “We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!  MSG

That must have been scandalous to many of John’s readers.  Well, the true Gospel (“the glad message of the happy God” 1 Tim 1:11 Rotherham) is still a scandal to those who think God is an unjust Judge, sitting in Heaven, anxiously awaiting to bring judgment upon innocent people.

Let me repeat, whatever you thought about God that isn’t like Jesus, isn’t God.

When the angels declared Jesus’ birth, they announced, “glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Lk 2:10).  Jesus is the focus of the “glad message.”

But, the Gospel isn’t just a story ABOUT Jesus.  The Gospel has profound implications for YOUR life. Are you ready for the dawning of a new day in your heart?  Then, I have a “glad message” for you!  Jesus has come, not to give you joy, but to FILL you with Himself, Who is Joy!  Unending Joy!

Who Jesus is; what He came to say, what He came to do–is all about inspiring “great joy” in our hearts!  Joy is what a prisoner experiences on the day he or she is set free.  “Great joy” is that same prisoner being told, they’re not only “free” but they’ve inherited an unending flow of resources that will supply their every need into eternity!  Can you imagine the response of that prisoner?  Don’t you think they would be both laughing and crying tears of joy?

Martin Luther said, “the Gospel is nothing else than laughter and joy”  Catch some of that today!

 

Focusing on Jesus makes the gospel “good news” again

Well, this is exciting.  My first blog.  I better confess upfront: the inspiration for what I will say here, I get from Paul: “….plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did–Jesus crucified”  1 Cor 2:2 MSG  My focus will be Jesus! Week in and week out.  Because focusing on Jesus is what makes the gospel “good news.”

And what is the “gospel?”  The gospel is the “powerful rescuing act of God” and “the righteousness of God revealed” Rom 1:16-17 Mirror Bible Translation.  It is a celebration of a perfect redemption (def. “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt, the action of buying one’s freedom”) accomplished by Jesus Christ on the Cross.  In Christ, you & I stand before the Father with the blessing of His favor and friendship.  We share in Jesus’ own intimate relationship with the Father!

Is that not staggering?  Everything that we could never do for ourselves; God did for us in Christ! And He did it in one glorious act of divine exchange. (2 Cor 5:21)

This is “good news” indeed!

John in his first Epistle says, because of Christ, our heart’s can be full of joy:  “we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!”  1 Jn 1:4 MSG  I so agree! And that’s my motive for writing as well.  To share with you the inward joy that is a celebration of God’s perfect salvation revealed in the gospel of Christ.

In Luke 24, we read the account of two disciples that had an encounter with Jesus after His resurrection.  These two disciples may have walked with Jesus for a couple of years, witnessed His miracles, yet they were “long-faced, like they had lost their best friend.”  Lk 24:17 MSG  They had allowed their immediate circumstances to rob them of the joy of knowing Jesus.  I think there are a lot of Christians today are like those two disciples.  Many are glibly walking down “the road of life” without having an inward revelation of the risen Christ in their hearts.  Their lives are marked by disappointment and disillusionment instead of delight.  They do not recognize the literal “treasure” they possess inwardly.

If the kingdom of God is marked by “righteousness, peace and JOY” (Ro 14:17), and since Jesus said God’s kingdom is “within you” (Lk 17:21).  I’m convinced that if you or any Christian you know, cannot personally identify with “JOY unspeakable & full of glory” — then, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, you do not recognize “who He is.”  Lk 24:16  MSG

I know many people are in the midst of devastating circumstances that are not joyful right now.  I am not discounting your agony.  But I see in Paul a heart connect with the Spirit of Life that sustained him even while he was in the midst of the most contradictory of circumstances.  Circumstances can act like a “veil” that causes you to lose sight of the abundance of grace and peace that is yours, right here; right now, in Christ.  Paul knew that by turning your heart toward the Lord, the veil will be lifted and His love, will redefine your life and mind-set.

“This is why no form of suffering can interfere with my joy”  Col 1:24  Mirror Translation

Paul had a revelation of the “success” of the Cross.  What those two disciples on the road to Emmaus lacked and maybe you lack, is a revelation of the success of the Cross.

Join me in the days ahead as we discover together the “unsearchable riches” that come with unveiling the mystery which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).   Let’s grow together in intimately knowing this risen One and increase our understanding of what God has done in redeeming and restoring His image in us.

I promise you, you will understand why the gospel; and your salvation, is worth celebrating!