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“What the heck is going on?!” Isn’t that what we want to know? On the way to and from Lynchburg two weeks ago, my son Jack and I listened to Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam, an audio book about a soldier and his army dog in Vietnam. In the chaos, destruction, suffering and fear of war, the soldier named Rick shouted out many times “What the heck is going on?!!” Thank God we are not in the war situation like Vietnam or other wars; however, we are in a season of chaos, destruction, suffering, fear and anxiety. If we have been involved with life at all, we have likely asked out loud “What the heck is going on?!” And likely nobody has answered that question satisfactorily. Nobody seems to know the right answer.

The resurrection of Lazarus from the grave also ought to make us stop in our tracks and wonder “What the heck is going on here?!” And that response, being like what we ask in the face of the present crisis, might make us wonder if the story of Lazarus has anything to contribute to that question about our lives today.

In a crisis like the world is experiencing, our faith is tested. Either our faith in God sustains our hope, our joy, our love for others and our commitments or it fails and proves of little value against the crises of our times. The Proverb asserts that “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (24:10) and Isaiah prophesies, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’” (7:9)

For Mary and Martha along with Jesus’ disciples, they must have wondered how their faith in Jesus’ person and power may have missed its aim. For Mary and Martha, they wondered where Jesus was and why Lazarus continued to be sick and then died with Jesus nowhere to be found. The disciples wondered at Jesus’ response to the news Lazarus was sick. He didn’t seem bothered and then he led them back into the hostile midst of those who had already tried to kill him. The statements by Thomas who says “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” (16) and then Martha and Mary at his arrival who say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” (21, 32) seem to resoundingly ask “What the heck is going on here Jesus?!”

In this story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, there are at least four indications of what is going on with Jesus that I think also apply to today and can give us insight into what the heck is going on:

1. This event is for the glory of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We may forget sometimes that we are not the most important thing to God. No doubt we are important…he loves us so much that he gave his one and only Son to die for us. The glory and praise of God is at the center of the universe, not humanity. All things exist for the glory of God. The work of Jesus glorifies God. In heaven, all creatures encircle the throne of God and bow down in worship before HIM.

Jesus says flat out of Lazarus’ illness and death, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (4) This is God’s priority. What is going on in this story is that God is being glorified in Jesus. It so happens that when the Father and the Son are glorified people receive the blessing.

Can we have faith to believe today that in the midst of this crisis that God is being glorified and Jesus is being glorified through it? Can we make that our prayer? “God be glorified in this crisis…May the Name of Jesus be glorified.” Even in the face of the impossible, Jesus confronts everyone like he did Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (40) Don’t doubt that God’s glory will be revealed and prevail. The more we believe the more we will see.

I know we want to be safe, secure, comfortable, well off in all ways. A greater purpose than those things is that God would be glorified.

2. The glory of God reveals his goodness and salvation so that people will believe and be saved to eternal life. Jesus does this work of raising Lazarus from the dead after four days, “so that you may believe.” (15) When Martha confronts him and laments her brother’s death that Jesus could have prevented, Jesus emphasizes to her that this death is not the end. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25-26)

This is extraordinary. Jesus is life over death. By believing in him, even though we die in this flesh, we shall live. And in fact if we believe in him our true self will not die but live forever. This would be unbelievable except that Jesus is about to prove his power that confirms its truth. He calls forth Lazarus from the dead after four days and proves he is life over death and that he has power to give life.

Jesus confronts Martha, “Do you believe this?” (26) Are you willing to base your life on this? Will you devote yourself to this truth?

That is what is going on…Jesus is showing his power to save and asking people to believe. Jesus even says his prayer aloud to the Father that people might believe in him. (41-42) Today, what is going on? Perhaps Jesus is allowing this crisis to occur and continue so that we would turn to him and believe. Because clearly we have no power to save ourselves, and none of us can avoid death eventually. God is getting our attention so that we would believe in him as the only one who can save for eternal life. This is a greater goal than anything in this earth. Pray that people would believe in Jesus. Make sure that you are believing in Jesus. The time any of us have left on this earth does not compare at all to the time we have after death. Believe for your eternal life and pray for others to be saved.

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3. What else is going on? The gospel story shows us that Jesus is involved with people. He is in the midst of the distress, the crisis, the chaos and the suffering. Jesus certainly could have healed Lazarus from a distance. He did it for others–healing with a word, but he doesn’t exclude himself from the midst of suffering and mourning. He goes right into it allowing Martha and Mary to seize him with their grief. Jesus is in no way unemotional or detached relationally. He is fully God and fully human; both are exquisitely displayed in this story. Jesus came into humanity’s suffering, and he continues to do so today.

In verses 33 & 38, John’s gospel twice describes Jesus as being “deeply moved.” This could be literally translated as “snorting with anger,” “groaning,” “being indignant,” “scolding against the situation,” “intensely emotional,” etc. The bottom line is that Jesus was emotionally charged in a deep part of himself and demonstrated it. In the midst of the mourning and indignation, “Jesus wept.” (35) Jesus was moved by the suffering of people. He was moved in his heart and in his gut.

What is going on is that Jesus experiences intense empathy and compassion for people in their suffering. Today, what the heck is going on? Jesus is present with everyone who is suffering and is grieving and is being frightened. Jesus has compassion and great love toward all people and is present. He is not distant from us but near us that we might reach out to him and cry out to him. Now is a time when we need to be equally moved to cry out to him and reach out for his presence. Perhaps he is waiting for us all to do just that. If you have not bared your soul to Jesus and been praying earnestly to him, I have to ask “Why not”? If not now, when? Turn to him and pour out your heart to him. He is present with you.

4. One more thing that is going on…Jesus is destroying the power of sin, death and Satan. Jesus is overcoming all of the curses of sin that bind people to Satan, sin and death. Jesus absolutely hates sin and death. He hates the curse of suffering. He is not passive against these enemies of God. He actively overcomes them. Lazarus is bound in death. He is bound to the curse of sin as he was bound to darkness and Satan in life. Jesus yanks him out of death’s grasp and frees him from the trappings of sin and Satan. Jesus is Son of God and also Son of man. Do you think he likes to win, to experience victory like any of us do? Like any man, he likes to win. His battles are life and death for eternity. This story of Lazarus is an example of Jesus winning a victory over his enemies and stomping on them. “Move the stone, Lazarus get out here, Unbind him, Come on!” Yes, victory. Shout Hallelujah!!

What is going on today? Jesus is winning. He is saving people everyday from the bondage of sin and death. He is setting people free from the devil’s grasp. Suffering and death are not the end. They are grotesque enemies that Jesus continues to conquer today for eternity. The resurrection of Lazarus and especially the glorified resurrection of Jesus demonstrate the eternal victory Jesus has over death and the grave. It is manifesting today, even though we might not see it on the news. Have faith that Jesus is conquering death all around us. And Pray for Jesus to completely conquer this sickness in the world and remove it from the face of the earth and demonstrate the victory for all to see. He can do it! Maybe he is encouraging us to believe for it. Maybe he is waiting for his perfect timing. Maybe he is accomplishing his purposes throughout the world in the midst of it. He has the power to do what he wills.

Today we are looking for wins that matter. I love sports and to win and for my team to win. And I honestly haven’t missed watching sports that much, because the focus has been on a greater battle…a battle for life, for health, for civility, for businesses, for healthcare workers, for food, for freedom, for lawfulness, for sanctity of life and for people repenting and turning to Jesus. We are cheering for rescue and salvation. Jesus is winning and is going to win ultimately.

What the heck is going on?! Jesus is Lord of Lord’s and King of King’s and his kingdom is coming soon. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed and it is real and spectacular. Rejoice in the Lord, Pray continually and Give thanks in all circumstances. Yes, Jesus is the Victor and cannot be defeated.

My newly published book is now available for sale on Amazon.  This book promotes a closer relationship to the Lord for the reader and congregations of Christians.  I emphasize the value to spiritual disciplines through an emphasis on the practice of silence before the Lord.  Readers will be inspired through the highlighting of Scripture and examples of the power of God’s grace working through his gifts of Scripture, prayer, others and his presence.  If you want to enjoy a closer and more intimate relationship with the Lord and to help others experience the same, I encourage you to purchase and read this book.  It includes contributions by a host of other Christian ministers from varied areas of giftedness.  Click on the title below to see it on Amazon:

To Be Silent: The Too Busy Church

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Christians are called and commanded to live by faith. The Apostle Paul and the author of Hebrews confirm the word of the prophet Habbakuk, “The righteous person shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4) So it is imperative for us as believers who have received righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ to understand what it means to live by faith.

The New Testament shows us that nobody achieves righteousness (or a right relationship with the one and only God) by works – not one (Romans 3:10). Paul makes it clear Romans 3:23-25 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”  And in Ephesians 2:9-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We receive Jesus and his righteousness by faith. The evidence of this transformation of being born again will be an ongoing life lived by faith in Christ, God’s promises and his kingdom. To receive Jesus by faith is described as asking him to forgive our sins and come into our lives. At this time of being born again, we begin running a race. The race has an end, but we don’t know when that is exactly. What we know is that to finish the race and win it against the forces of evil in the world, against sin & death, we have to run each step to win from start to finish. We run each step by faith, even as we took the first step by faith. At the last step of the race we will enter into the fulfilment of all of our faith in God’s kingdom with Jesus – whether we go to him or he comes to us.

The author of Hebrews defines faith for us. Living by faith means living in the assurance of things hoped for and with the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1) The “things” hoped for and not seen are the fulfillment of the promises of God and the presence of the kingdom of heaven.

So think about these question: Are you living with the assurance of having what you hope for? Are you living with the conviction of what is not conspicuously apparent? How do you answer these for yourself? How would an observer of your life answer them? We could also ask whether our hopes are based on the promises and purposes of God or on selfish and worldly desires. Are we hoping for the right things?

The author of Hebrews in chapter 11 (vv 4-19 for this writing) comments on some folks who lived by faith, demonstrating assurance of hope and a deep conviction in God’s kingdom. This also shows the benefit of reading the Old Testament. It shows us how to live by faith.

We learn from Abel’s life that faith commends a person to God and that faith speaks…loudly and boldly. Does your faith grab God’s attention? Does it speak to the world?
Enoch’s life shows us that by faith we draw near to God, please God and walk with God and that by faith we go to be with God and experience rewards in heaven.
Noah shows us that faith builds a life in obedience to God that bears witness to the world. He shows us that by faith we receive an inheritance that lasts forever — beyond life in this world.

Abraham’s and Sarah’s lives show us that by faith we pursue a kingdom that is not of this world and that God will move in our lives according to his promises and power that have no restrictions except our willingness to believe him. Abraham received righteousness by believing God. He lived in faith by obeying God. His life proved his faith. His faith was tested and proven when he was willing to offer Isaac, the child of promise, to God as a sacrifice. When God saw this, he stopped him. Genesis 22:12 “He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.'”

Seeing your life, does God know that you believe him?
God has prepared for us a kingdom to be received by faith in him. This kingdom is the everlasting homeland of those who live by faith looking to Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews calls him “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (12:2) The more we spend devoted time to him, practice awareness of him, communicate with him and look to him, the more our faith grows and is exercised.

Jesus assures us that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) We should not fear that God will withhold any good thing from us. In fact, the Psalmist writes,

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:10–12)

Paul in confirmation of God’s goodness and generosity writes, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

All that is God’s kingdom, God has been pleased to give us in Jesus Christ. If you want to know what the kingdom of God is you can look to Revelation chapters 7 and 21-22. It is a kingdom where Jesus reigns and where nothing opposed or contrary to the good and loving will of Jesus exists.

Jesus instructs us in Luke 12 how to live in the world by faith according to his kingdom. He has promised us (also in Matthew 6) that God will provide for us, that he knows us and cares for us. He will answer our prayers according to his love and abundance. We can therefore seek his kingdom and not worry about our lives.

Jesus commands us to live dressed and ready for action with our lights on, to be like people actively preparing for the coming king, listening for his knock, watching for his sign, eager to move on his behalf in the midst of our lives in the world. This is a life of constant faith readiness.

I suggest that a sign of this life of faith and “ready for action” posture is the ongoing immediacy of prayer on all occasions, some planned and intentional and some unplanned and spontaneous. And this, among some other kingdom of heaven “things,” is what the world needs.

This past weekend, after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, I wondered what God was hoping for from his people. We saw the impotent idiocy of politicians and the media – all with their agendas and biases. But what does God urge for his people to do by faith in Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. And I wondered is this what will occur on Sunday in our churches and during the week in believers’ lives together.

What do you think God requires at such a time of his people called by his name? What action to perform and what work to accomplish? Be careful. It is dangerous to answer such a question. It requires courage and a willingness to serve Jesus in faithful obedience to his answer.

Abraham’s intercession for Lot as example:

In Genesis 14, Abraham’s (at this time still Abram) nephew Lot and his family are taken captive along with many from Sodom and Gomorrah (before their destruction) by four kings who defeated five other kings in battle. Abraham heard of this and immediately gathered 318 men from his household and went to rescue Lot. They defeated the four kings in battle and rescued and took back all that was taken plus more. Abraham declared afterwards “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth.” This was an act of courageous faith in intercession of others and to assert God’s authority in the earth over evil.

In Genesis 18, Abraham again intercedes for his nephew Lot. This time it is through intercessory prayer to the Lord who has determined to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to the severity of their wickedness. Abraham pleads with the Lord to spare the city for ten righteous people. God answers the prayer by delivering Lot and his family from destruction to the extent they are willing to escape. Destruction still comes in the world, as it did in Sodom, but prayer facilitates the rescue and intervention for those for whom we pray.

Both of these actions of intercession and rescue by Abraham demonstrate the life of faith that does not abide the destructive forces of sin to go unchecked and unchallenged. This is what I believe God is calling for by us as we live our lives of faith, dressed for action for the kingdom of heaven. Our action is to rescue people from the destructive powers of darkness and to expand the kingdom of light by our actions and our prayers. God will inspire us and empower us as we offer ourselves to him. Be ready. Be courageous. The knocking of the Lord on the door is for you.

When you respond in faithful obedience, the Lord will come and serve you with the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. He will give you the victory and your intercession will find good effect as both occurred for Abraham. It pleases the Father to give you the kingdom. You must decide if you want it…today and every day.

Intimacy with Jesus requires “floortime” and facetime with the Lord. Renowned child psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Daniel Goleman encourages parents to spend “floortime” with their children. Goleman has a significant, simple way of inspiring parents to help their children develop emotional intelligence through play and quality time. Parents don’t have to plan anything or study anything; rather, they just have to play with their children and impart love and wisdom through their relationship of unconditional positive regard.

Floortime with God might be described as spontaneous times of devotional leisure in the presence of the Lord. Floortime with God could be anything that brings you joy in his presence—rest, reading, dancing, praising, teaching, art, etc. I think the way the character of Eric Liddell, the great early 20th century Scottish Olympian and missionary, explains running in the movie Chariots of Fire describes floortime with God. When pressed by his sister in the movie about the tension she perceives between pursuing his running versus full-time missionary work, Liddell quiets her anxieties with the following statement, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” This statement written by Colin Welland for the script to the movie affirms the early Church Father Irenaeus’ famous assertion, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Floortime is true free time—not being on one’s own but with the One who is love and who protects from harm. Children’s psychologist Madeline Levine writes, “Over the last 20 years, kids have lost close to two hours of play every day, most of that unstructured play. And it is unstructured play that provides opportunities for kids to be curious, creative, spontaneous, and collaborative.” I believe the church in the West has lost a similar amount of time in unstructured communion with the Lord; therefore, it has lost similar spiritual, Christ-like attributes. Floortime with God represents the unstructured intimacy with God that inspires his children to act like their Father, as his Spirit inhabits them.

Like any good parent, God engages in facetime as well as floortime. I’m not talking about what we do with an iPhone. I’m referring to literally being face-to-face with another person.

For any person to be fully alive as a human, facetime with the Lord is required. God tells us, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” (Deuteronomy 8:5) Floortime consists in fun and feeling God’s pleasure. Facetime, on the other hand, may include discipline and feeling the force of God’s holiness and the fervency of his loving desire to conform us to Christ. All that God does flows from and includes the expression of his love. He may sometimes “get in our face” to get our attention. These times of confrontation or even rebuke are not signs of his anger or punishment but of his Fatherly love. God’s wrath is reserved for those at enmity with him and not his children in Christ.

God commands us to seek his face. The Psalmist writes, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek.’” (Psalm 27:8) We are eager to enjoy the fun of floortime with the Lord; God is eager for us to seek the presence and favor of his face. The Lord graciously reveals his face to us and brings us into the light of his countenance.

Jesus’ life demonstrated an intimate union with the Father in all he did and said. He explains to his disciples this intimacy with the Father when he says, “I and the Father are one.” (Jn 10:30) By the way, at hearing this statement, the religious rulers of Israel picked up stones to stone him. We don’t want to hear about intimacy with the Father; nothing requires more immediate and severe death to self than intimacy with the Holy Father.

Later Jesus’ disciple Philip asks him, “Show us the Father.” Jesus responds as follows,

“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11)

His union with the Father allows Jesus to assert this truth, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” (John 5:19-20)

This doesn’t automatically happen for Jesus. His union with the Father flows from a disciplined prayer life that is his first priority. Jesus dismisses crowds and disciples in order to spend time with the Father. He arises early or stays up late to establish the intimate society of his Father. He shows the healthy discipline of a child of God turning aside from culture and community for a time to experience the one-on-one intimacy of God. This discipline is a mandatory habit for Christians who want intimacy with the Father. It requires a singular focus on the Lord, as he reveals himself by his word and his Spirit. Jesus develops the relationship in private and maintains the closeness in public.

During times of our intimacy with God, we can experience the love of the Father through Jesus Christ by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws the believer into the Father’s presence where Jesus lives at his right hand. From this position, we hear God speak words of life, truth, healing, encouragement and love to us. We hear the Father whisper our name. This is the posture in which we taste the hidden manna and drink in the water of life. It is from this posture of intimacy that we take hold of the Father’s hand and walk out into the crowd of the world assured of the Father’s love and grip. This grip of the Father’s hand inspires us not only to walk in joy but to walk in love for God and for others. During times of intimacy with the Father, we can sense the love of God being poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5.5)

Intimacy with the Father comes through Jesus and only through Jesus—the Way, the Truth and the Life. (John 14.6) In the gospels, we see accounts of intimacy between disciples and Jesus. These historical events serve as instructive illustrations for how we enter into intimacy with the triune God.

God does not just put up with people as if he must begrudgingly clean up his mess and fix his mistakes or merely make do with what he’s got. God the Father, acting as parent, actually wills to give new birth to humans from himself by his own heavenly womb through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Through the Holy Spirit’s conception of Jesus Christ in Mary and Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, we are able to be conceived and born again by God from above as his children and citizens of his kingdom.

Jesus tells us that we must be born again from God, “’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3.3) How and where are we born again?

In the same conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus emphasizes that we are born again from the Holy Spirit. We must be born of the Spirit. Being born of the Spirit is being born in God’s kingdom having eternal life from Him, in Him and with Him forever.

God does not give birth to us reluctantly, and he does not give birth to spiritual children who will be neglected, abused or punished. God gave Jesus to sinners, because he wants them to be born again and have eternal life. John writes in the first chapter of his gospel, “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

God wills for people to be born again through Jesus. God, the perfect and loving heavenly Father, decides, determines and works for people to be born again as his own. God really wants you to be his son or daughter. God not only gives birth to you, He will raise you and care for you now and eternally as a Father who is good beyond our imagination.

He even gives us his Holy Spirit to live in us and assure that we have been reconciled to him as a child with his or her Father. The Apostle Paul writes, “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:15-16)

The Holy Spirit works in the world to lead sinners to become born again, and when we are born again, he works to assure us that we are God’s children. We are adopted and beloved by the Father in Jesus Christ solely because of his grace and love. Once his, God also works to conform us to the image of Jesus.

If God has loved us so much to give new birth to us into eternal life, won’t he surely reveal himself to us as a loving Father during our lives? Jesus rebuked his disciples for preventing parents from bringing their little children to him to bless them. Mark writes, “But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 10.14) If Jesus demonstrates his desire to bless children this way, will not God the Father strive to bless his own children born of his will even more earnestly?

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah and gave him the message that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son, John (who became the Baptizer), the angel referenced the prophecy of Malachi to indicate the work of God that would occur through John. Gabriel said that John would be great before the Lord and filled with the Holy Spirit, and he would go before the Messiah in power to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. (Luke 1:15-17) If the work of God through his prophets and Spirit is to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, how much more will his own heart be turned in Fatherhood to his own beloved children born of his will? He will pour out his heart and love to those who belong to him. He will be the perfect Father to us throughout our lives, as we mature from spiritual infants to adulthood.

The Roman Catholic priest Father Raniero Cantalamessa describes the joy of a child who lives assured of his father’s love. He writes, “If a child is certain that his father loves him, he will grow up sure of himself and able to face life. A child out walking holding his father’s hand or being swung around by his father with exclamations of joy or who talks to his father as man to man is the happiest and freest creature in the world.”

This image describes those people born again and living in the assurance of their heavenly father’s love and presence in their lives. This is the posture we will have towards life in the new earth and heavens. This is life of a child in the kingdom of heaven. This is the life God gives us in our relationship with Him—The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God Loves the Worst

April 8, 2019

We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we are pretty good people, and of course God is going to love us. We may pretentiously think “God is love so that is what God does…he loves us. He sort of has to do that, right? How could he not love me? Especially when I’m not that bad.”

Right and wrong. God loves us, and he is love; however, God does not have to save us and reconcile us to himself. And, we are not just sort of sinful or bad; we are the worst! And we have no chance of making ourselves better or more lovable to God—not even a little bit.

God is a holy Creator, and we are sinful created things. God says, “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.” (Psalm 50:21) And this, “I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst.” (Hosea 11:9) And the prophet said this, “God is not man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23:19) Over and over, God tells his people, “I the LORD your God am holy.”

And we are unholy, ungodly. But God loves us in the midst of our sinful wretchedness. That is what is amazing about God’s love; not only is his love unconditional, it is unconditionally poured out toward absolutely miserable wretched sinners who keep on sinning and destroying themselves.

The “good news of great joy” for humans is that God “justifies the ungodly.” (Luke 2.10; Romans 4.5) That is, the Lord loves sinful people so much that he declares them good, holy, innocent and righteous through the blood of Christ. How does that happen and why? It happens because God loves people. It happens through the sacrifice of Jesus who demonstrated the greatest love by giving his life for us objects of God’s wrath. Salvation and forgiveness do not happen apart from God’s loving sacrifice in Jesus Christ crucified. Through Christ, we can dwell eternally in God’s love.

The apostle Paul, who is another person who knew God better than most people in history, writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) By the blood of Jesus, we who are ungodly sinners are justified and made as perfect as Jesus in God’s eyes. And we have not done a single thing to earn it in any way whatsoever. This love is generously and indiscriminately poured out for all people who have ever lived or will ever be conceived.

John records Jesus declaring, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) For love of people, God the Father sent God the Son into the world to die and rise again by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

God’s story in the Bible begins with God creating the universe and all that is in it including humans made in his image. The story shows how God desires for people to live eternally in a garden of paradise enjoying all his creation and having fellowship with him. He delighted to create people and called his human creation “very good.”

After humans sinned and spiraled downward into rebellion and severe perversion, God did not wipe them all out. The story of the Bible leads to God’s rescue mission in sending his Son to save humans from bondage to sin, Satan and death. Take hold of the Son, Jesus Christ, to enter his goodness and grace for now and eternity.

To listen to a sermon about the state of people and the overwhelming love of God, listen here.