Almighty God is the author and source of life. He breathed into us the breath of life both physically and spiritually. We rebelled from the Source of Life bringing the curse of death upon ourselves. Ever since that first rebellion God has been working to restore life to mankind. He chose Israel to carry His truth to all nations. He gave them laws for guidance, and worship practices to instruct them in His nature. He sent prophets, priests, and kings to show the way of life. Finally, He entered human life Himself to make atonement for sins and conquer death. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”(John 10:10) God is about life, the best life mankind can have. That is why He has given He Holy Word to guide us into the path of life. Life is not found just in any old way that makes us happy, but in the path God established to bring us back to a full life in Him.
I read an article a few days ago about modern family structures. Today only 20% of U.S. children are raised in a two parent family compared to 60% in the 1950s. There are single parent families, multi-generational families, same gender families, and families with a variety of people related and unrelated. The single criterion that measured the success of each of the six families highlighted in the article was happiness. Were they happy and able to get along. I am not condemning all of these arrangements. Sometimes they are necessary and beneficial for people, but what I did notice is that personal happiness has become the standard for people’s lives. “Our inalienable right to Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as our Declaration of Independence puts it. Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy, but what happened to the desire to know God and wanting to live lives that honor and please our Father? That, after all, is why we were created. It is also where our greatest satisfaction and joy will be found.
The news has been reporting on some terrible conditions that continue to spread. Doctors are carefully watching the Ebola virus hoping that it does not spread. Wildfires are spreading through Yosemite National Park. We read about the war in Gaza that continues to spread. These are outward visible disasters that are difficult to contain. But there is a condition that concerns me more than these. It involves ideas and attitudes. These are things that become rooted in a society and become accepted as normal by more and more people. Sex, marriage, and family in particular. Attitudes about these have changed dramatically over the past years. Actions and lifestyles are accepted today as normal that were once clearly thought wrong. Even for many who don’t accept these values personally they say, oh well, it’s just the way they do things today. Wrong attitudes, attitudes that are not thought through and clearly guided by God’s truth, spread like wildfires, and are spiritually more deadly than Ebola, fire, or war. Everything must be tested against the truth of God’s Holy Word.
We are impressed with powerful things – a great earth mover, 400 horsepower under the hood, a football team’s front four, military might, and so on. And we certainly believe that our God is all powerful. He can do anything He chooses, any time He chooses. But He always has a habit of turning our concepts of reality up side down. The greatest power of God is displayed in His love, and in forgiveness. He has shown it to us by His bloody body hanging on a cross. We find that same power as His nature is at work in us. Self giving love and forgiveness have the power to change hearts, heal long festering wounds, and mend relationships. Love and forgiveness can change us and those around us for all eternity. No earthly power can do that.
News reports this morning tell of rioting in the streets of Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israelis. Jerusalem figures prominently throughout Scripture, and has been the center of conflict for thousands of years. There are many complex reasons today, but the thought I’ve pondered often is the origin of the city. To Moses God said, “You are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go…”(Deuteronomy 12:5) It would be reaffirmed many times afterward that “I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there.”(II Chronicles 6:6) Jerusalem, the city where God’s name dwells. As I said, “many complex reasons” are involved in the current troubles, and I do not mean to place good or evil motives on any one people. Ultimately, there is a mixture on both sides. But is this conflict perhaps outwardly symbolic of the real spiritual battle the world, the flesh, and the devil are waging against the truth of our Lord? And should it not also cause us to increase our prayers for the coming of the New Jerusalem?(Revelation 21)
[tag Christianity, religion, Jerusalem]
A spot on the radio was reporting the opening of a new cultural museum focusing on a particular people. The commentator was speaking of some of the people’s activities making the remark, “after all they were only human”. It is a remark we often hear. It has been used as the theme for popular songs, and is the name of a British band. It is used to excuse poor behavior, or not meeting some expected standard. It’s interesting, though. As much as we dislike the word sin, and don’t want to acknowledge the existence of absolute values, expressions like this belie our efforts. They simply prove the truth of Romans 3:23. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Of course, we can continue on in our excuses and self justifications, but God calls us to something better. Verse 24 says, “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” We are human. We do sin, but rather than cover it up with excuses we should turn in repentance and receive the cleansing grace available in Jesus Christ.
Many people claim to be Christian, and we will refer to people in the past, particularly our Founders, as being Christian, but is that really true? We always need to be clear in what we mean by being Christian. A follower of Jesus Christ is not a sufficient definition. That may simply mean that they like some of His teachings, and follow His moral precepts. The Apostle Paul wrote more clearly that, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10:9) A Christian is one who knows their eternal salvation rests only in the one man who has broken the power of death for all time, and declares Him to be Lord of their life. It is only in this that we stand justified before God, and have the assurance of our eternal life with Him. It is in this that the great truth of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ rests. It is in this that we have cleansing from sin and freedom from guilt. A Christian knows that Jesus is no mere moral teacher among all the rest, but the unique and only Saviour of mankind.