Posts Tagged ‘Christian faith’

At the Core, Love

Open and enjoy

Open with joy

There is a lot of confusion among people today, about the true essence of Christianity. Is Christianity a set of biblical teachings we are to follow? Is it just another world religion, that calls upon a god that cannot be known? Is it a philosophical view of the world that engages the weak and simple minded? Could it be more than just a set of beliefs, rituals and doctrines designed to get us into heaven someday after we die? Just what is the Christian faith and what key thoughts are at the core of a biblical worldview?

At the core of Christianity is a relationship.

Jesus said, ”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37-39)

Jesus was saying; Christianity is about who you are and how you relate to God… its about love!

According to the Bible, living in relationship with God defines all other relationships. Our most significant Christian Truth is that God designed us from the beginning for relationship with Him. We were created in His image and for His purpose. We have been made to become carriers of both His love and His promise, as His dear children.

Therefore, it is crucial that we know how God intends for us to see Him… as a loving Father.

Loving Him is where it all begins for the Christian. At the core of this relationship is the awareness that He first has loved us and revealed that love in tangible ways. Like a hug feels warm and embracing to the person receiving it; so also there are things God has revealed to us that we can see and receive as signs of His love for us.

God wants us to see and feel His love for us (Jn 14:21).

The most important sign is that God sent His only Son into the Earth to die upon a cross, in order to forgive us of all of our sin. His desire was to remove any barrier to the clear revelation that God, as a Father loves and delights in humanity. There would be no question of His heart toward us, if man could just see the gift offered freely and receive it with joyful appreciation.

God did not send Jesus to condemn us! (Jn 3:17)

His love is not revealed to us in this way to condemn or punish, but to communicate a willingness to receive us as sons and daughters no matter how far away from ”home” we have strayed (Lk 15:21-24)(Jn 1:12). God’s embrace is given with a promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5); that He wants to give us life abundant and restore what has been stolen by brokenness and confusion. He stays with us and walks it out within our hearts through the person of the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).

Beholding love, stirs us to love (1 Jn 3:1).

These are the amazing truths that enable us to respond to God as a Father and live with Him as sons and daughters. They compel us to embrace His heart and love Him back, in responsive relationship. Christianity is a life worth living, because at its core.. is love.

The Great Exchange

The Truth for a lie… that’s it. What God has done for us is just that simple… if we can embrace it.

Jesus made the statement that the devil is a thief, who comes only to kill, steal and destroy; but He offered an alternate reality… “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:9-10). Jesus offers us freedom – from sin and the lies that sin requires us to agree with (Jn. 8:36)! If you want to be free… agree with the Truth found in Christ!

Everyday:

The experience of our Christian faith must become a journey of exchanges whereby all that we have seen and heard is processed through the lens of Truth. On Calvary there was a crushing blow that destroyed the power of lies. Indeed, Jesus in the cross crushed the serpent’s (the devil) head.. and the greatest transaction of all time took place. Christ the Sacrificed Lamb took our place and became the substitute for the sin of God’s people. Jesus picked up our burden… (Isaiah 53) was laden with our guilt and trespasses just as if He, Himself had committed our sins. He was counted with the transgressors.

“He hath made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21).

That we might become Righteous!

Christ took full responsibility for the sins of His people and by His death made atonement for them. As the “scapegoat” He took them away from us. He died for the unjust (1 Pet 3:18) and His righteousness is counted as ours. “He has clothed us with the garments of salvation”. Freely justified we stand before God, not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ paid to our account.

This is the greatest opportunity of all – and the time is now that we exchange our rags for His incredible riches!

The great exchange is about our identity. Its about letting go of our sin, our brokenness and wounds from the past. Sinful behaviors are pardoned by simply asking God to forgive you and free you of the shame. Jesus said, “the Truth shall make you free!” (Jn. 8:32) Yes, yes – YES… you and I can become totally free! Praise the Lord!

Our Highest Prize

Scripture: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:31-32)

Thought for Today: “Living for Jesus – boldly”

Our highest prize is to be found living for Jesus. Living in such a way… that places are shaken, fullness is experienced, unity is established and all things are shared among a generous fellowship. God is offering us the invitation to walk in spiritual prosperity and release His love to the world around us. Our enemies are God’s enemies, our difficulties are God’s difficulties and yet, our victory is God’s testimony. We are beginning to understand that we have full access to everything for which Jesus died. Its not about the bigger, better or more popular life, its about gaining Christ. He has captured our hearts, by loving us in the midst of discovery!

“We cannot, but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Prayer and fasting can lead us to believe that our Christian faith is more about dying to self than living for Christ. Yet, we are exchanging the ashes of a misguided life for the beauty of abiding in His Presence. Though darkness lasts for the night, fresh joy gets released in the morning. The Lord, Himself becomes our Everlasting Light and shapes the way we see our world. It truly is Christ in us that is the hope of Glory (Col 1:27).

The Unveiling:

Yet, Glory goes unseen, because flesh is a veil that the devil uses to hide what is available to us (2 Cor 4:4-6). The inward, spiritual man is so much more wonderful than the outer, natural man of flesh and blood. Its the Holy Spirit’s influence that begins to delight our heart and remove the veil of flesh, so that blessing, purpose and fruitfulness can emerge as our treasure (2 Cor 3:16-18). And treasure it, we will… just try to still our voice, shift our vision or hold us back! We have understood the call to go forth in power and it is now inside us, to endure all things with bold perseverance (Heb 10:35-39).

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! (Rom 8:31-37)

The Foundation!

I believe the most common reason people fall away from the Christian faith is because of how they are building their life… the wrong foundation leads to the offended heart.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” (Lk. 6:46-49)

The building of a life is a process of listening and learning, growing and trusting those who are around us. But it requires us to test the words and actions of those we love and those who seem to be influencing others. Building a life is all about who we put our faith in… ultimately. Jesus tells us that it requires a good foundation… one that is based upon some work. Notice: that Jesus tells us that in order to have a good foundation, we must dig down deep and lay our faith and belief on the rock… not just any rock, but the truth that Jesus is Lord. Its not lip service, but heart belief… hearing and responding to the voice of heaven as it comes through the person of Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God! (Mt. 16:16)

Who to Trust:

Sometimes we put our faith in a church. We become very passionate about our church and may even develop a “my-church-is-better-than-your-church” attitude. But there are a lot of great churches in the world. And we are all part of the Church, not just a particular church. We may have a favorite Bible teacher or like one pastor better than another. This even happened with first-century believers. The Apostle Paul warned, “For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?” (1 Cor. 3:4–5).

There is nothing wrong with liking a certain pastor or enjoying a church that you are a part of… but don’t build the foundation of your faith on these things. Churches will disappoint you, because they are run by people. And people make mistakes, and sometimes they are misunderstood. Pastors will disappoint you as well, because they are human… like everyone else. So if you build your foundation on a church or on a pastor, you will find yourself vulnerable and susceptible to offense, because those people might mess up. When I speak to people who have given up on God… they usually say things like “their just a bunch of hypocrites” or “Christians are judgmental and intolerant”. Those are the words of an offended heart.

The Apostle Paul said, “…no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

Jesus is the True Foundation!

Jesus said all other ground is “sinking sand”… all other things, even good things; have their limits as to, how far they can be trusted. When you stand before God one day, He will want to know what you did with His Son – Jesus. He will not be asking whether everyone you knew, who claimed to be a Christian… behaved like one.

So don’t build your faith on people. Build your life on the foundation of Jesus Christ!

Is Hell Real?

I am often asked to share about the reality of hell, yet I write these thoughts with a sense of caution, knowing the great passion this topic brings to our minds. Let me first say that I believe there is a flood of false doctrine being advanced lately by people who do not understand the justice of God. They would rather believe in the wisdom of man and philosophies that depend upon frail foundations, more than Biblical Truth. Men try and tell us “that God is too merciful to punish souls forever… that all mankind, however wicked and ungodly… will sooner or later be saved”. We are being asked to embrace what is called “a kinder theology” and treat hell as a pagan fable. But this is not Biblical Truth… and it is not a “kinder theology” if it leads to deception. We must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). 

Foundation:

This question of whether hell exists, lies at the very foundation of the Bible. The Message of the Glory of God, His moral attributes, His justice, His holiness, His purity, are all involved in our true understanding of hell as a real place, with real eternal significance. The Scripture has spoken plainly and fully on the subject of hell. If words mean anything and if our Christian faith is to be interpreted fairly, then hell is real and there are people who will be cast into it!

The same Bible which teaches that God sent Christ to die for sinners, also teaches that God hates sin, and must from His very nature punish all who cleave to sin by refusing to embrace the salvation He has provided.

God knows I find it difficult to speak about the realities of hell; but without speaking about hell, we cannot speak clearly about the Cross or its message to humanity. I would gladly and boldly share the truth of salvation through Christ to anyone, even the very worst of sinners. I would willingly say to the vilest and most wicked or the richest and most prestigious of our society, “Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Mk. 1:15)(Acts 8:37)(Acts 16:31)

“But God forbid that I should ever keep back from mortal man what Scripture reveals about hell as well as heaven…that men may be lost as well as saved.”  (Quote by Rev. J.C. RYLE )

The Facts Remain:

  1. Hell is real! The Bible speaks more about Hell then Heaven. (Mt. 23:33)(Mt. 5:29)
  2. Hell is fearful! It is a place of torment and punishment. (Lk. 16:28)(Mt. 13:42) Hell is a place of real intense suffering, ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’.
  3. Hell is eternal! (Mt. 25:41)(Mt. 25:46) “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

Salvation is the Free Gift of God - to All who Call Upon the Name of the Lord! (Eph. 2:8-10)(Rom. 10:13)

The hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mt. 4:17) is that Jesus died for sinners and bore the just penalty for their sins! Now God offers a full and free pardon, forgiveness of sin and salvation from sin… for those who repent and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as their Savior! (Rom. 5:7-11)(1 Pe. 3:18)(Jn. 6:47)(Acts 3:19)(2 Cor. 5:21)

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