Showing posts with label God. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God. Show all posts

Friday, May 12, 2023

A Bleeding Heart


Jesus not only taught about the importance of love, compassion, and forgiveness, but it is also how he lived. He spent time helping others and showing compassion to those who needed healing, help, and hope. Jesus’s mission of compassion was an important part of how he ushered God’s Kingdom into the world, because it was a visible demonstration of what life in the Kingdom was like.

 Throughout the Gospels, we read about examples of how Jesus showed compassion to people, especially to people on the outside of community. It is interesting to note that most of the Jesus’ healings allowed people to return to being part of community life. Their healings moved them from being on the outside of the community to the inside of community. 

One of the best examples of this reality is seen in John 8:2-11. In this passage we read about a woman caught in adultery.  The religious leaders brought this woman to Jesus, after catching her in the act of adultery (apparently the man vanished into thin air). They asked Jesus what should be done with her. After all, the Law demanded that a person (both the man and the woman) in her situation should be stoned to death. 

Jesus, wanting people to rethink how the Law should be applied, said, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, CSB) Jesus' words not only revealed his compassion for a woman who was unfairly treated, but these words also highlighted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who were quick to judge and condemn others without acknowledging their sin.

Another example of Jesus' compassion is found in the healing of the leper found in Mark 1. Leprosy in the first century was a feared disease since it was untreatable and made a person unclean. Since lepers were viewed as unclean they were forced to live in physical and social isolation. 

In Mark 1:40-45, we read how Jesus cleansed this man with leprosy by touching him, despite the social taboo of touching a leper. Jesus not only showed compassion for the man's physical suffering, but Jesus also restored his social standing by cleansing him of leprosy, which allowed the man to return to the community. 

Another example of Jesus showing compassion to those who were outcasts or and marginalized by society is found in Luke 7:36-50. In this passage Jesus is invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. At dinner a woman known for her sinful life came in uninvited. She made a spectacle of herself as she cried and kissed Jesus’ feet. Simon was disgusted by her presence, but Jesus praised her and forgave her sins. This story reveals Jesus’ compassionate and gracious character as he makes room in the Kingdom for those the religious culture had rejected. Jesus makes room for the outcasts by offering them hope and forgiveness.

Without a doubt, Jesus' life was marked by compassion for others. He reached out to those who were suffering, whether physically, emotionally, or socially, and offered them hope and healing. Jesus' compassion for people provides us with an example to follow.

Given that reality, it makes me wonder about the motivation behind statements like this.

I think this a good example of being so committed to a theological and political worldview that it distorts the true image God and true character of Jesus. As I just demonstrated, reading of the Gospels reveals this as an incorrect understanding of Jesus and his mission.

The Bible clearly teaches that God saved us because of His love (John 3:16). Pity, mercy, and compassion all flow out of love. God saves us because He loves us. This is crucial because it is love that forms the foundation for how we are to live.

John wrote:
1 John 3:16-17 (NLT)
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

Sacrificial love is the opposite of promoting your own glory. It is doing what is best for the person in need, regardless of the cost to you.

Paul emphasizes this very point in Philippians 2.
Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

We are to be humble, because Jesus was humble. It was the humility of Jesus that led him to set aside his divine rights and sacrifice himself for us. Yes, the passage goes on to say that Jesus will be raised to the place of highest honor, but that was not what motivated him. His motivation was love and that required humility and sacrifice.

The write of Hebrews wrote:
Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

In Jesus we see both the glory of God and the character of God, and what we discover is that at the very heart of who God is is love. We can’t separate God’s glory from love, and therefore, compassion is at the very heart of salvation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Look to Jesus


Jesus is completely unique in human history as the Divine Son of God. 

As the Son of God, Jesus reveals two important truths:
  1. Jesus demonstrates what it means to be created in the image of God. To live as an image-bearer of God, we need to look to Jesus.
  2. Jesus reveals God's character to us in a way that humans can understand. To know who God is, we must look to Jesus.

Elias Dantes' essay, The Incarnation of Christ and its Implications, in the book Christ the One and Only, emphasizes both these truths: "If you want to know what it means to be a human being and to stand for the humanity of man, look to Jesus Christ. If you want to know God, look to Jesus Christ."

The author of Hebrews also highlights these truths:
Hebrews 1:3 (CSB) "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Hebrews 2:14-15 (CSB) "Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death."
John wrote about these realities as well:
1 John 2:6 (NLT) "Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did."

John 14:9 (NLT) "Jesus replied, 'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don't know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?'"

Jesus is not only our example for living but also reveals the truth about who God is. By looking at Jesus, we can understand God's character in terms our finite minds can grasp.

Since we are created in God's image to reflect His glory, it should come as no surprise that these two realities are connected in Jesus. We are meant to imitate Jesus in our lives, becoming more like him each day. As we grow in our understanding of who Jesus is, we grow in our understanding of who God is.

In a world that often confuses and confounds us, the simplicity of looking to Jesus to know who we are and to know who God is can be a great help. As we face the challenges of daily life, we can find wisdom, confidence, and hope in the example of Jesus. 

Through Jesus, we can be assured that the temptations and trials we face are not meant to bring us down but to strengthen us as warriors and athletes of God.

Let us then look to Jesus, who is not only our example but more importantly our King and Savior. We need to commit to living as he did, and in that way, grow in our knowledge of who God is.

Monday, January 18, 2021

More than Just Words

 What we believe matters. Our beliefs have the ability to shape our thoughts, world views, and behaviors. This is why we need to make sure what we believe is true.

With that being said, we have to recognize that understanding certain doctrines doesn’t mean we have faith in God. We can intellectually affirm that God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, but that doesn’t mean that we actually have faith in God.

What is also true is that we can understand what those words mean, but still not understand God's character. If our relationship with God is based purely on definitions and doctrines, then we will miss experiencing God for who He truly is.

To gain a better understanding of God requires moving away from the intellectual pursuit of knowing about God to the pursuit of actually knowing God. That can only happen as we trust our lives to Him.

It is one thing to say that God is the great provider, but it is another thing to experience God providing for our needs. 

We can say that God is the Great Physician, but it is another thing to experience God’s healing power in our lives.

Our ideas of God fall short of who God is.

Hebrews 11:29-31 (NLT)
It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

Each of these examples mentioned in Hebrews 11 remind us what made the difference was the response of faith that allowed people to experience God’s power. Because of faith God parted the Red Sea, because of faith God tore down the walls of Jericho, and because of faith Rahab was rescued from Jericho.

All these people had an incomplete understanding of God, but because of their faithful actions they experienced God in a real way. This allowed them to see God in a more true sense then a careful study of Scripture is able to do.

Living by faith adds a real dimension to our understanding of God that our academic and devotional study are not able to provide.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...