Archive for the ‘John’ Category

When I think of God’s love for me (for us), I want to sing . . .  mostly because there are some great songs today about God’s love for us that capture some of the essence of it.

One song we sing at church and is on the radio has the refrain, “Amazing love, how can it be that my King would die for me?  Another has a repeating refrain, “He love us, oh how He loves us.”  The repetition of the phrase over and over starts to really speak of the limitlessness of God’s love.  Another song puts it this way, “Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging.  Your love is a mountain firm beneath my feet.”  I don’t think there is much better to sing about than the love of God for us and the manifestation of that love in the person and death of Jesus.

Of course, we learn of the great love of God for us (that causes us to sing) from the words of scripture:

  • For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)
  • In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
  • For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  (Rom. 5:6)
  • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Rom. 5:8)
  • But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  (Eph. 2:4-9)

This love is like an avalanche that crashes over us.  It is no small thing, this love of Jesus, to be discarded as mere philosophy or self-sacrifice of one good teacher.  No, this act of love is so great that mere words cannot describe it, songs only hint at it, and pictures fall short of portraying it.  This love is an endless sea into which we pitch ourselves in desperation when we have nothing else, and there we find our Savior-God, our Kinsman Redeemer, has provided us a great yacht on which to travel in safety under His direction to see the greatest wonders of the universe, a life filled with adventure and purposeful challenges to make us like Him.  What other lover offers so much and has the resources and desire to deliver and never take back what He has given.

This is God . . . these are the mere edges of His ways.

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Independence from God is never equivalent to freedom.  It is in total dependence on God that we have freedom – freedom from sin, freedom from fear, freedom from worry and anxiety and most-importantly, freedom from judgment – the judgment of a holy God due sinful man.  All men are sinful.  The Bible teaches that none are righteous and that the wages of sin is death.  The only true freedom is that which comes from God.  Only He can promise a genuine and lasting freedom.

When I was sixteen, I obtained the first key to my “independence” from my parents.  I started working at the Jacksonville Pharmacy in Jacksonville, Maryland.  You might have a hard time understanding what a coup that really was.  Practically everyone in our loosely-defined town went into that Pharmacy at least once a week.  Some came in every day or evening on their way home from work.  It was a hub of activity and community news.

It was that $3.35 per hour that gave me my first real “independence” (so called).  From that point forward, I purchased my car, my gas, my insurance, my incidentals, etc.  I thought of myself as independent even though I was only 16 and still living at home.  I thought I was independent, but looking back now, I can see I really wasn’t totally free of dependence on my parents for the roof over my head, health insurance, food and other expenses of everyday life.

I can draw a parallel to my spiritual life.  During my college years, I turned from my relationship with God to assert my independence from His restrictions.  (I now see them as cords of love.)  I took on sin and tried to be its master.  I think you can guess how that ended.  It mastered me.  I sinned well and with frequency and depravity and thought little of God.  I had become “independent”, a place I would never recommend.  It was a place filled with emptiness and despair and darkness so heavy it can push all the air out of your lungs.  Independence from God was a place of slow death of my soul – a death that would have gone on for eternity, a death that would have separated me from God forever.  It is a law of nature that independence brings death.  What happens to the flower cut from the stem?  The branch cut from the tree?    Death.  Life is found and sustained only with connection to the vine.

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jesus speaking)

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The Bible is divided into 2 testaments or sections:

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament

The Old Testament, written mostly in Hebrew, comprises approximately 2/3 of the Bible, and the New Testament, written mostly in Greek, comprises the remaining  1/3.  The Old Testament covers a period of approximately 4,000 years, and the New Testament covers a period of approximately 100 years.

The breakdown of the books of the Old Testament has been provided in prior posts in this Bible Basics series (parts 1-6).  The New Testament was introduced in our last post.

The first section or division of the New Testament is the gospels.  Each of the gospels has a different writer and a different target audience.  Each of the gospels also portrays or emphasizes a different aspect of Jesus.

  • Gospel of Matthew
  1. Written by Matthew also known as Levi
  2. Written to the Jewish religious person
  3. Emphasizes Jesus as the Messiah prophesied of in the Old Testament
  • Gospel of Mark
  1. Written by John Mark
  2. Written to the Roman person (pragmatic)
  3. Emphasizes Jesus as the servant-redeemer
  • Gospel of Luke
  1. Written by Luke, a physician who had traveled with Paul
  2. Written to the Greek mind
  3. Emphasizes the man-nature of Christ (the Perfect man)
  • Gospel of John
  1. Written by John who stood at the cross of Jesus and wrote the Epistles of John and the book of Revelation
  2. Written to a more universal audience
  3. Emphasizes Jesus as the Son of Man

After the Gospels which all basically cover the same time period from at or around the birth of Christ until His trial, crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, is the book of Acts which covers the early history of the Church.

  • Book of Acts
  1. Written by Luke (also wrote the Gospel of Luke)
  2. History of the Early Church from Pentacost to Paul’s final trip to Rome
  3. Documents how the Holy Spirit moved through those who had been saved and how the Word of God spread through those who would believe.

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A Father’s Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.   John 3:16

It would seem God gave us the picture of a father and his son, so we could better understand his love. For who is it that God would call to be saved who wouldn’t have a parent, even if that parent were absent, abusive or neglectful. We all are someone’s child, and many of us have our own children. We all understand, even if not from personal experience, that the parent- child relationship is intended to be a life-long bond that withstands all attacks, a bond of the heart.

I lost my father at the age of three. Despite having a step-father for most of my life, the loss of my father colored my life. Every major life step or accomplishment, I thought of him and wondered what he would say. His absence was noticeable. Every Father’s Day, I am reminded of what I lost.

The point is that God wanted us to understand the depth of his love for us, the love of a parent, a loving father who considers what is best for us, who wants to protect and nurture us. It is also this father who will sacrifice the most important thing for us – his son. We understand the depth of the sacrifice as reflected in the relationship lost, father losing son. We can only begin to understand this love of God for us by looking at the sacrifice.

Consider the story of Abraham and Issac, a Biblical illustration of a father’s call by God to sacrifice his son. It can be found in Genesis 22 starting in verse 1. Abraham is a type of God the Father and Issac, a type of Jesus. Abraham loved Issac. He had waited many years for God to fulfill his promise to give him a son. Sarah was Abraham’s wife whom he loved very much. This was the only child of their union, received some 60 plus years into their marriage. He was a treasure to his father in his old age.

Issac was likely a grown man at the time that these events took place. He followed his father’s instructions to go up with him to the mountain. Issac would have known that a sacrifice was needed when he set off on the journey with his father. Scripture tells us that once up on the mountain, Abraham bound Issac. We know that Issac would have had to have gone along with it since he was a grown man and Abraham was well over 100 years old at the time. After binding him, Abraham laid him upon the altar of wood. Imagine that act. Put yourself in Abraham’s place. Picture yourself building an altar, binding up your grown child and taking out a knife and preparing to slay your child, the love of your life. I have trouble walking myself through it even in my mind’s eye when I see the face of my child peering at me from the pile of wood, asking me with her eyes what I am intending. In the end, God stops Abraham short of the sacrifice and accounts Abraham’s faith and obedience as righteousness. Abraham does not need to sacrifice his son to show his love for God; however, God did have to sacrifice His Son to show His love to a lost world and to pay the price for their sin.

The relationship between father and son is used to show us about our relationship with God, e.g. the intimacy, the reverence, the provision, protection and other attributes of God; however, it is also used to evidence for us the depth of the sacrifice that God made in securing our salvation, and the obedience of the son to the father in walking out that plan.

The death of Jesus on the cross some 2000+ years ago was no accident, no unforeseen consequence, rather He willingly gave up His life, became the sacrifice for me and for you. Matthew 20:28 says, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Paul confirms this in his first letter to Timothy, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Tim. 2:5.

Meditate on the sacrificial love described in John 3:16 and the other scriptures discussed here, and ask the Lord to reveal to you what He would have you to understand about His great love for you.

Write down 3 ways God has manifest his great love for you in your life. This could include ways he has protected you, opened the way for you, comforted you in time of trial or pain, restored you, etc.)

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