Look Up to Me

upward view of a rope with knot at end hanging down from a large tree

The young woman ran wildly among the trees near the shore of the island in a frenzied attempt to escape a pack of wild dogs chasing her. After making a sharp turn to the left, she suddenly slipped into a patch of quicksand. The dogs picked up a new scent along the way, thankfully, and shifted their pursuit to another creature, which quickly began to run in the opposite direction. But the woman now had a new problem to deal with, and it was not waiting for her to figure out a solution.

Slowly but surely, the sand was pulling her in deeper and deeper.

At first, she thought it was not a serious problem, and began grabbing any nearby objects and branches. She quickly determined that this was pointless, since everything she pulled broke off or slid in with her. So she attempted to wade her way out, and even tried a light swimming maneuver. Both proved hopeless as her body became more engulfed in the thick, soft ground.

Since she had not seen anyone else around to help her, panic set in and loud screams emanated from her mouth.  

Meanwhile, the burly captain of a boat tied to a dock around the bend nearby had heard her shrieks. He dropped everything and ran as rapidly as he could to the place where she was trapped. He saw a large tree with sturdy branches hanging over the young woman, so he picked up some strong, thick rope lying not far from where he was and quickly climbed the tree. He crawled cautiously out to the place right on top of where she was stranded. After securing the rope tightly, he made a crude loop for her to grab, and slowly began to lower it down.

By this time, the woman was at the point of utter desperation. While her arms thrashed about in sheer terror, she frantically looked around for something, anything, she could get her hands on—only to discover nothing anywhere nearby.

Feelings of doom and death flooded her mind as she began to give up hope.

She thought about her husband she had recently married, and how he would handle the loss and emptiness after her departure. Her mood shifted to gloom as she brooded on the idea that she would never see the smiling faces of the children they would have had. There would be no home to spruce up for him or anyone else each day. In fact, there would be no more days to see anything, since she was sure her life was about to end.

She moaned loudly in hopelessness and agony as she realized that all prospects of rescue were gone. All she could think of was her terrible misery.

Suddenly, right above her head, a voice bellowed “Stop looking at yourself. Look up to me!”

The young woman looked left and right but saw no one. Thinking she was becoming delirious, she groaned louder. Again, the voice thundered: “Stop looking at yourself and look up to me!” The woman was more startled than anything else, as she turned her head around in all different directions. It wasn’t until she finally glanced upward that she noticed the rope dangling right beside her.

“Take the rope, put your arms in the loop, and lower it around yourself,” the captain hollered sternly. The woman grabbed hold of the line and pulled the loop under her arms and held onto the rope, while the captain used the leverage of another branch to slowly pull her up to the limb he was perched on.

“How can I ever thank you? I thought it was the end for me!” she exclaimed breathlessly as she sat beside him. “How in the world did you know I needed help?” The captain was silent while he helped the woman climb down the tree.

Then, as they walked back to his boat, he paused and remarked, “I heard your call in the beginning. I knew you couldn’t make it on your own. So I dropped everything and ran to where you were.”

With that, he motioned her to join him, saying “Come on, you can clean up, and then I’ll take you to the other shore.”

How many in this world today feel trapped like that young woman—not in quicksand, but in their own pain, desolation, and anguish? While trying to escape from one dangerous mishap, they end up stuck in another instead. And all too often, for many it is their last.

The problem is that they only keep their eyes on themselves and their circumstances, looking to themselves alone for the solution. They therefore end up struggling and trying all kinds of unsuccessful methods to get free from the bad situation that they are trapped in.

They leave God out of the picture, so their life becomes hopelessly lost. Eventually they reach a point of feeling like there is no one else around who could really help, and no way out.

Depression and despair set in and their outlook becomes grim. After one more desperate cry for help, they slump down defeated, and all but give up. They finally concede that their dilemma is greater than they are able to solve.

This is when they finally hear a voice from deep within their soul crying, “Stop looking at yourself and look up to Me!” Here is their solution. When they looked at themselves alone, their bad situation had no hope of ending well.

Only when they look up to Jesus will they find the answer that will save them.

The means of rescue is hovering right above them, like it was with the young woman in this story—if they will only look up and not look to themselves. As long as they stay focused on their dire condition, they will never be able to make their way out on their own. If they refuse to turn their eyes toward Jesus and depend on Him for their deliverance, they will continue to sink deeper in their sorrow.

When Jesus hears the desperate and sincere cries for help from our heart, like the captain of the boat did, He immediately comes to our aid.

If we put our trust in Him, He will extract us from the mire and pull us up to a secure place. He will even clean off our filth. And not only that, He will also invite us to follow Him to the other shore. All of this He willingly does, even though we don’t deserve any of it.

Do you find yourself running away from one problem, only to find yourself trapped in another, unable to find a way out? Have you been trying to free yourself, and all of your attempts have only made the predicament even worse? Then quit focusing on what you are going through and how you will solve it yourself. Look up to Jesus for your help instead. He is your only solution and He is listening for your call for help.

“…for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

He is lowering your rescue rope right now, waiting for you to put your trust in Him, so He can deliver you from your difficulty.

 

[Image credit:Matthew Maaskant/freeimages.com)

“God Is For Me”

Wood cut by Gustave Dore of Sennacherib's Army is Destroyed

How often do we go through our walk with the Lord, thinking that there is no place where we feel like our enemies would not gladly engulf us? It seems as if every time we turn around, a new hurdle, hindrance, or attack comes against us. In some instances, even what we say is twisted and used against us. We may seek help frequently from those we know around us, but it does little to ward off the trials we encounter daily. In the midst of our tears, we find ourselves calling out to God, unsure what our next step should be.

King David, one of the greatest leaders ever of a kingdom, struggled with the same sort of problems we often encounter today.

This same David single-handedly defeated the mighty giant Goliath—the powerful strongman of the same Philistines that David came up against when he wrote Psalm fifty-six.

Every day, he faced these enemies. In verse two he said, “Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.”

Later in this psalm David said, “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul” (Psalm 56:5,6).

If this was the whole thrust of this psalm, we could easily declare his situation utterly hopeless, with no solution in sight.

Thankfully, he did not indulge himself in worrying about despair and sufferings, as seen in the rest of this passage: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me…When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. In God will I praise His word: in the Lord will I praise His word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:3,4,9-12).

David’s attitude through all of this is clear: he trusted in God and gave Him praise. We cannot go wrong when we turn our situation over to God and let Him handle it.

Remember, it is not our faith that bring results; it is His faithfulness. The psalmist declares “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds” (Psalms 36:5) and “Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth” (Psalm 119:90).

Notice what he also said in Psalm fifty-six: “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (verse 1). When we are fearful of those around us, or in the situation coming at us, then we have slipped out of trusting in God and have started focusing on our self. See what happened to Peter when Jesus called for him to step out and walk on the water. “…He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:29-31).

When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Yet, even then, he still cried out to Him to help him—and Jesus did!

Peter could have floundered around in the rough water trying to save himself, or called on the others in the boat to help him. Instead, he put his trust in the Lord again to deliver him from drowning.

Three times in this short psalm David stated that he put his trust in the Lord. Four times he gave God praise. The more God repeats something in His Word, the more that we need to heed it.

Even though the Philistines were coming against him, David placed his trust in the Lord and His Word. His situation was desperate, but he remained confident that God would take care of Him, and praised Him before the victory even happened.

If Israel’s mightiest leader could cry out to God and trust in Him, so can we, as believers in Jesus Christ—the son of David, and the Son of God!

The victory Jesus won through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross became our victory too. By putting our faith and trust in His finished work, we no longer need to be worried about what our enemies want to do to us.

Jesus already defeated the enemy—all we need to do is to rest in His victory, confident in Him that He will save us. David said, “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me” (Psalm 56:9 emphasis added). 

Even the Apostle Paul affirmed in the book of Romans, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 10:31 emphasis added).

Therefore, when problems mount against you, or the enemy is close at hand, do not run away or hide in fear. Cry out to the Lord and believe in Him. Give Him praise for who He is and what He is going to do. Do not doubt or let your faith in Him waver. Put your trust in Him alone and let Him take care of the circumstances. Keep David’s words in mind, “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me” (Psalm 56:9).

 

[Image credit: Gustave Doré/public domain]

Why Look to Your Past for Your Future?

 

image of seated man with glasses in mirror hanging on tiled wall

“And it came to pass, that as he was come [near] unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God” (Luke 18:53-43).

How often do we, the children of God, look to our past when we have a need that we cannot meet?

Jesus was on His way into the city of Jericho when He came within the vicinity of a blind man. He stopped to respond to the commotion that the man was making. This blind man, known as Bartimaeus, had heard that Jesus was within earshot and earnestly called out to Him. Why? Because he had a need that he could not overcome in his own strength. He also knew who Jesus was, and that He could cure his condition. Bartimaeus was not able to make himself see again. If he had reflected solely on the fact that he had been and still was without sight, he might have never called out to the Lord. But he did not dwell on the unresolvable—he put his full attention on Jesus.

The Lord is not looking for what we think is the best thing to do. He is seeking for what we believe He is able to accomplish, above and beyond our finite mindset.

Jesus said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). When we focus on what has not been taken care of—the negative things of our past—we restrict God. Almost anybody can believe for what is possible; but it is solving our impossibilities that God desires us to believe Him for.

We must reach the place where we believe that the Lord totally and completely is able to handle any difficult situation, infirmity, problem, or extreme condition that we may find ourselves in.

Even if the problem has been with us for most (if not all) of our life, we have to continue looking forward to the Lord in faith if we are going to receive our breakthrough. We need to let go of our old self with its negative mindset, and associate with Him to the point where we can see the impossible as being fully possible. We cannot allow ourselves to look back on our past, continuing to believe that our future is destined to be more of the same. As children of God, let’s do what the formerly blind Bartimaeus did—hold our peace no longer, but cry out persistently to Jesus instead, totally believing in Him for our miracle. Then He will be able to reply, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee” (emphasis added).

 

[Image credit: Charis Gegelman/Unsplash]

My Joy and Your Joy

sepia photo of man with arms raised standing on rocky ground facing towards large body of water on cloudy day

“These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled” (John 15:11).

The Joy of Christ

“My joy” here means the joy that is Christ’s. This is what He desires for His disciples to possess, by which He can then, as a consequence, guarantee that we will be truly blessed. And what was His joy?—absolute self-surrender of Himself to His Father—the joy of doing what the heavenly Father sent Him here to do. He declared, “I am come to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9).

His joy was the joy of self-sacrifice in continual obedience to His Father.

Jesus also said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful” (John 14:27). And just as Jesus gave the disciples His peace, He gave them His joy—the joy of self-sacrificing love. He said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fulfilled” (John 15:11). The love of Christ was not the ordinary kind, but the highest kind—the kind that is the greatest and most free from concern, resulting in the greatest self-sacrifice. And the greater the self-sacrifice is, the greater the joy is. Both were perfect in Christ—because He had the joy of perfect self-sacrifice.

Christ’s Confidence of Success

Jesus also had the joy of steady confidence in coming victory and success. He never entertained the slightest doubt concerning the ultimate success of His mission and the result of His coming into this world. But no one else has ever been tried as severely as He was. He was rejected and crucified by His own. But, in spite of this, His joy remained poised and serene. It did not destroy His happiness, nor His confidence in God the Father. His faith in the justice and successful outcome of His cause was never shaken.

The source of the joy Jesus had, and the joy of all His followers, is the joy of union with Him and the Father, of obedience to Him and His commands, and of love to Him and each other.

It is the joy of self-sacrifice, even to the point of suffering and death. It is also the joy of His perfect confidence of the righteousness of their cause and principles, and of total victory in the end. Consequently, the joy of the disciples and their Master came forth from the same source which flows out into an ocean of joy without end.

Christ the Example of joy

Jesus pointed out the source of happiness to His disciples. Both by His rule and His example, He revealed that the only path of real joy is the path of duty. We need to walk this path as He did. We need to dwell in Him as He dwelt in His Father. We need to obey as He did and love as He loved.

We need to be willing to sacrifice ourselves as He was willing to sacrifice Himself.

Then His joy will be in us, and ours will be fulfilled in Him and in ourselves. This is when His joy will be ours–while still being His own. The joy of our Master is fulfilled in the joy of His disciple. And the disciple’s joy is satisfied in his Master.

The Self-sacrifice for Christ

The sacrifice of self at the request of Christ is the path to the highest, most superb, and most godlike joy and gladness of which our human hearts are capable. If His joy is ours, then we can rest assured that our joy will last. We’ll find that it will be filled up to the highest measure of its capacity. It will be elevated and will move forward, always going on to fuller possession of His joy. Our joy will be able to maintain a deeper calm of pure and continual ecstasy. This will create a settled and heavenly bliss for all to whom the Lord has said, “…enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:23).

Jesus was the most perfect, beneficial, and inspiring example to His disciples. In one sense, His joy in relation to believers is an illustration of this, while also being a very efficient aid to achieving the same ourselves.

He helps us so that we can help ourselves—by careful imitation of Him as our example.

Jesus prayed that our joy may continue being fulfilled until it is the same as His joy. The question is, will we permit Him to introduce this joy of His to us? And will we continue on to the point of self-sacrifice to obtain the ultimate joy—like He did?

 

[Image credit:Bjørn Heidenstrøm/Flickr]

How To Be Great

graphic image of large man with right hand leaning on head of smaller man

For most of us on this Earth, being very popular, highly esteemed, and regarded as worthy to be above others is our fondest innate desire. Many highly educated and well-respected individuals have taught various ways to accomplish this (for a fee), along with a multitude of other vain conditions. Every year, billions of dollars are spent to try to make ourselves appear great and glorious.

Yet true greatness will never be accomplished by any human method or philosophy.

The greatest minds of philosophers, psychiatrists, scientists, etc., are not capable, even collectively, of producing a solution that will effectively elevate the status of respect for all of us in life. Some leaders of various countries have gone so far as to use brute force to make their citizens treat them as great leaders, and yet, in the final analysis, they don’t achieve true success.

But God desires for us to go contrary to man’s way of thinking. In Genesis 3:19, He shows us just how ‘great’ He actually considers us to be: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (emphasis added). God does have high regard for us as being created in His image, but in our current, sinful state, He can only treat us like what we really are—nothing more than dust.

There isn’t anything we can possibly do on our own that will make us great in the eyes of God.  

We might just shrug this off, thinking that we are not out solely to please God; we just desire to be ‘somebody’ in this world. But how can this be achieved in a world where the standard of superiority is always fluid? The very thing considered great and outstanding in one part of the world might be insulting in another. At one point in time, as a small example, a woman had to have a pale complexion to be considered beautiful, yet, later on, this attitude changed to thinking that a woman of great beauty should be as highly tanned as a bronze pillar! Some are regarded lofty and ideal individuals if they are accomplished orators, while others are held in high esteem for their silence and reserved nature. And consider this as well: how can we achieve superiority when everyone else is trying to be superior also?

That is why we need to look beyond this mortal, sinful world. God never intended for each of us to act like we are great or superior to another.

This is one reason why He sent His Son to Earth to provide a way and an example for us to follow. Throughout His time here on Earth, Jesus demonstrated how man’s expectations for greatness are inappropriate.

Jesus did not come to Earth the first time to be considered great or to be worshipped—He came here to serve. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). He came to put into practice what had been declared in His Word. Who can live by what someone says if that person is unwilling to follow his own teaching? Not until after Jesus had humbled Himself as a servant did “God also…highly [exalt] Him, and [give] Him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

Consider this short list of occasions where God’s Son humbled Himself to the level of not just a lowly servant, but even a despised outcast as well.

  • He was born in the manner of a common person, not like a child of royalty.
  • His first bed was a feeding trough, not a plush cradle in a magnificent palace.
  • He was led into the capital on a donkey—a lowly means of transport for a king.
  • He was considered to be out of His mind, to the point that His own family wanted to have Him put away.
  • He was accused of crimes He had not committed, then crucified in place of a murderer.
  • He was hated and ultimately killed by secular and religious leaders.
  • He ended up in the most degraded position of any human being in history.

Jesus never displayed an attitude of self-pity. He didn’t hang His head low, always walking around looking glum. He never regretted or resented coming to this planet in the role of a servant.

He trusted in His Father, who knew what was best for Him in every situation and circumstance that He would encounter. He looked forward to whatever God had prepared for Him next. He knew God’s way would always be the best way.

Is it possible for us to be great, therefore, if not in this present frail and short life, but for eternity? It can only happen if we are first willing to humble ourselves to the position of a servant. Jesus said, “…but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For [which] is greater, he that sitteth at meat [reclines at a table], or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26-27 emphasis added).

The Apostle Paul laid out the method God wants us to follow: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5 emphasis added).

On the path to true greatness, our only perfect example is Jesus.

 

[Image (modified) source:Geralt/Pixabay)

The Next Move Is Ours

 

In every board game, such as checkers or chess, the first player makes a move and then another move always has to be made, alternating back and forth until the game ends. Whether you go first or second, your opponent will always have to move one of his pieces to another space after you make your move.

While the work Jesus does is not a game, He does expect the same kind of action from us. In many areas during His time of ministry here on Earth He made the first move. Then He expected man to make the next move after Him.

Let’s look at a few examples. We find the narrative of the death of Lazarus in the book of John. Jesus was informed by Mary that her brother Lazarus was sick to the point of death. Jesus could have just said the word and healed him, like He had done on many other occasions. But this time, He chose to wait until after Lazarus died before He traveled to Bethany where he once lived.

When Jesus finally did arrive, Lazarus had already been dead and buried in a cave for four days. At this point nobody believed there was any hope for him. But that did not matter to Jesus, for “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). When He reached the opening of the cave that had been sealed with a large rock, Jesus told those present to “take ye away the stone” (John 11:39). He made the first effort in regard to raising Lazarus from the dead; now they were to make the next move.

Jesus could have moved the rock Himself, but He wanted to see how much they really wanted Him to work in this predicament.

If they were not willing to take the simple step of removing the barrier to the cave, then why should He continue? “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid” (John 11:41). After a brief prayer to His Heavenly Father, “He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.” (John 11:43-44a). Then “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44b). It would not have been difficult for Him to go one step further and free Lazarus from his burial cloth right then, but that was not the focus here. Jesus expected the next move to be made by them.

Another example is found in the eighth chapter of Luke. “…behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as He went the people thronged Him” (Luke 8:41-42). Common sense says that Jesus should have ordered the crowd to turn aside, rushed over to the ruler’s house, and healed his daughter while she was still just sick. But Jesus does not follow human common sense; He is only obedient to what His Father desires. Therefore, He allowed Himself to be delayed. When He finally arrived at the ruler’s residence, the man’s daughter was dead.

This time, Jesus did not tell anyone to physically do something. He expected them to: “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).

The next move was in their hands. Jairus needed to believe that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life. In verses fifty-four and fifty-five, at least one of those present followed through and trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness. “And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat.”

Look at one more example found in the fifth chapter of John. In Jerusalem, there was a pool of water that was stirred up periodically by an angel. Whoever entered in during this time would be healed of his infirmity. One man present had been afflicted with a disease for at least thirty-eight years, yet he had not been able to enter into the water in time to be delivered from his condition.

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:6-7).

Obviously, the man wanted to be healed; he was just at a loss as to how to do it. But Jesus came along and made the first move: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

At this point, the man could have replied, “But sir, I have been trying to walk for some thirty-eight years now and nothing has happened. Could you just pick me up and place me in the pool when it is stirred again?” Yet, in the next verse, the afflicted man believed in the words of Jesus and he made the next move. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…”

Time and time again, we find that God will move first, and then hand it over to us to trust in Him and make the subsequent step. He leaves us with the choice to either obey His request in order to have our victory and deliverance by faith, or to stand still in doubt and unbelief, missing out on the blessing He has in store for us.

The bones of Lazarus might still be sealed in a cave, a synagogue ruler’s young girl would never have seen her thirteenth birthday, and a man might have died next to a pool of healing water if those present had not obeyed the Lord’s command.

Jesus isn’t going to make all of the moves for us. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). He will often leave a portion for us to do, in order to try our faith in Him. Whenever the Lord moves first in our life, we need to remember—the next move is ours.

 

[Image credits:channah/Freeimages;Devanath/Pixabay]

Connecting to the Right Outlet

Rockwell is a pretty smart guy, except when it comes to non-technical things. Sure, he knows that a car can’t run without gas or oil, and that refrigerators, microwave ovens, and light bulbs all need electricity to operate. But ask him how they function, and he will struggle to give an explanation.

This is why, one cold morning in early March, Rockwell could not get his electric space heater to operate. He plugged it into an outlet in the living room and turned it on. After ten minutes, nothing had happened. He removed the plug and inserted it into the socket underneath, but still no power or heat.

He picked up the heater, shook it vigorously several times and placed it back on the floor. There it sat with no lights, no noise, and certainly no warmth. 

With friends coming for lunch, he knew he had to do something to get the place warm. He went to the basement and brought up another heater—smaller but still adequate. He inserted its plug into the same receptacle, turned the unit on, and waited. It, too, just sat there—cold, dark, and quiet.

Rockwell decided that this was too technical for him to bother with at the moment. So he returned to fixing breakfast. Meanwhile, his neighbor stopped by for a brief visit.  He noticed right off that the house had almost no warmth, but he figured that Rockwell was already aware of this, so he kept silent and sat at the breakfast table. After they chatted a while, the temperature grew colder, and his neighbor could not remain quiet any longer. “Rocky, my boy, are you running absent-minded this morning, or did your heater give out on you?”

“Well, I plugged it in and tried all kinds of things to make it work. I even hooked up another one I got downstairs. I figured if I wait long enough, one might eventually turn on one way or another.”

His neighbor went over, checked both heaters, then the outlet.  Then he took a desk lamp, connected it to the same outlet, and got the same results: nothing. Finally he took one heater and plugged it into another electrical socket across the room. Voila! It came alive immediately and began to warm the room.

“Well, there’s your problem,” his neighbor remarked. “They were plugged into a dead outlet. For some reason, there was no power available there. They have to be connected to the right outlet if they are going to heat the room. All of your efforts earlier were useless.”

Now, how many of us today are living a cold life? Not a physical cold, where we need socks, sweaters, and heaters to get and stay warm, but spiritually, in our hearts. No matter what good method we try, we can’t seem to find the solution. We accepted Jesus Christ in our heart, yet we are still in a constant struggle to be free of some bondage in our life. Whether it is smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, immorality, lying, stealing, or a whole host of other sinful habits, we just cannot rid ourselves of their control.

So we turn to the medical world, psychology, self-help programs, religion, government assistance, pastors, churches, neighbors, and family members. We pray, go to church, read the Bible and consult other Christians, yet we still struggle with these problems. They frequently make us ashamed, depressed, confused, and overwhelmed.

We vow at the beginning of each day or week that we will not give in, but we still end up succumbing to the same sinful actions. 

As a Christian, why does it have to be this way? Why can’t we be free and victorious? Why do we have to be in this bondage? The answers lie in our understanding of Jesus Christ and the cross. By putting our faith in something else, we will always be under the control of sin. God does not want us to be in this state any more than we do, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He fulfilled all of the requirements of His Father that we could never accomplish, and paid a debt that we are unable to repay. 

The problem is that, when we accepted His Son into our hearts and made Him Lord of our life, we did not totally yield to Him. Instead, we continued to fight these battles with sin (a spiritual problem) in our own strength and effort (a non-spiritual answer).

Look at this another way. We are attempting to remove the coldness (sin) from our heart by connecting to a dead outlet (the world and its hopeless solutions). But when we plug into a live outlet (Jesus Christ and His victory on the cross), we allow power (His Spirit) to flow freely in our life. He is now able to remove the control all of these sinful habits mentioned earlier have on us, and our heart begins to warm up.

But, as long as we keep trying to clean up our sins by our self, we remain connected to a dead outlet and receive no connection to the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The “law of the Spirit of life” refers to when we connect into the live outlet. By plugging into a dead outlet, we are walking after the flesh, meaning the ways of this sinful world, which will always be followed by “the law of sin and death,” or bondage. 

Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

The only way to be free of the sin habit that perpetually plagues us is to accept the victory of the finished work of Jesus on the cross as our own victory. Stop plugging into a dead outlet of our own futile works, thereby cancelling out all Christ has done for us. Connect to the right outlet and we, as children of God, will find freedom from the control sin has had in our heart and life.

 

[Image credit:Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Would You Die For Your Enemies?

“…God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The Lord was pointing here to His reconciling death, which both His friends and enemies alike needed very much. The idea here is that sometimes a need is so compelling that a man might choose to die for the ungodly and his enemies even over the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the godly and his friends. This kind of love was the kind that Jesus had for man—demonstrated by His voluntary death on man’s behalf—which is the greatest love that there is.

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9).

Being now justified” means being pardoned, or accepted as His friends. When we were still His enemies, Jesus overcame everything that would keep us from being saved. So how much more reason we now have to expect Him to give us His protection, since we have become His friends. “By His blood” means by His death. Our value to God is in direct proportion to the value of the price of our redemption. We have been purchased and purified at the price of Jesus’ own shed blood, which makes us holy in God’s eyes. He will certainly keep His promise since we have been bought with such a very dear price.

“…if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Jesus undertook this work while we were still His enemies. But it was by this very work that we were changed from His enemies into His friends. God laid its foundation while we were still opposed to and resisting Him. This revealed that God was determined on His part to perform it. And He has consequently made the solemn promise that it will be made perfect. “We were reconciled” means that we have been brought to an agreement in a state of friendship and union with God. We became His friend, laid aside our opposition, and welcomed Him as our friend. The great design of God’s salvation plan was to accomplish this very thing.

This means that obstacles existed before which had to be reconciled on both God’s side and our side. But His death removed them, on His part. And on our part, we were reconciled when we honored His Law which showed His hatred of sin and upheld His justice. A Christian is reconciled to God by overcoming man’s hatred of God and His Law, and by bringing man into submission to His rule. He is also reconciled when his former unwillingness to be reconciled is removed by bringing his heart under control—by changing and setting it apart unto God. Now man is able to become the friend of God. All of this was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son as an offering in our place. The two opposing sides have now been reunited!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

How perfect the love of Jesus is to us. He described the people He died for as “His friends.” And His object and purpose was displayed by “laying down My life for My friends.” But they were not His friends originally. They were enemies and hated God—all at the very same time that His Son laid down His life for them in order to reconcile them to God!

By ‘friends,’ Jesus did not mean those who love Him, but those whom He loves. These ‘friends’ Jesus died for are the same people Paul referred to by the opposite name—he said Jesus died for His ‘enemies.’ They weren’t the kind who had behaved themselves like friends, or shown any love and affection to Him at all—they were the opposite. They were only called friends because He chose them to be His friends. And by dying for His ‘friends,’ Jesus reconciled the ones who were His enemies by His Spirit and grace, and made them His friends.

Therefore, this love of Jesus, shown in giving His life for His people, is greater than any example of love among men. A man might lay down his life for others who deserve it, or he might even be forced to do it. Some may die hoping for worldly applause and glory. But when Jesus laid His life down for His enemies, He had no evil or selfish views—He freely volunteered to do it at the highest ultimate cost to Himself. Jesus would never have had His friends if He had not died for His enemies. He shows the way we are to deal with those who are alienated and hostile to God—by pouring out His unselfish, self-sacrificing affection on them, which will conquer all in the end. The death of Christ has therefore become both the pattern for our life and the hope for our heart.

When Jesus hung on the cross dying, His enemies rejoiced and triumphed over defeating Him. Yet the true, ultimate outcome of His humble and weak condition was to reconcile us to God.

And if He had the power to accomplish such a great work as reconciling us when He was humble and despised and dying, then how much more can we expect Him to be able to keep us safely in His care now that He’s the living, lifted up, triumphant Redeemer! If His powers which were weakened in dying were enough to reconcile us, how much more will His full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer be enough to save and keep us! Judas “…betrayed Him…saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He…” (Mt 26:48). But Christ “kisses His enemies with the kisses of His mouth”, and makes them His friends—because He loves them! Now what He Himself said: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19) is made clear. He willingly died for His enemies; will we willingly live as His friends?

This is a companion article to one written about Jesus dying for His friends. Please click here to read more.

 

[Image credits:(angry man) Rene Asmussenfoto/Freeimages; (angry woman) Cristina Matei/Freeimages; (cross) abcdz2000/Freeimages]

Would You Die For Your Friend?

graphic of blue background with a silhouette of person kneeling at a cross

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This verse emphasizes that Jesus laid down His life for His friends. There is no better way to show a dear friend how much you care than to lay down your life on his or her behalf if it becomes necessary. And this is the kind of love Jesus has for us if we are His friends. He laid down His life for the ones He loved, and He wants us to be willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

God lives in all those who belong to Him. Others are thereby able to see God, because He is in us. They can recognize Him in us by His love shown forth to them through us. God approves of the kind of love that we transfer from ourself to our brothers and sisters in Him. He is looking for this kind of love which makes us forget ourself and pursue the good and well-being of others.

The love referred to here is the love of God in Christ—because Christ is love. And how do we know for certain that He loved us? He was willing to give up His life for us on the cross.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us…” (1 John 3:16). And if we have the love of God in us like Jesus did, then we will be willing to die for one another if necessary to prove it is so. Therefore, the life of a believer should not be more important to him than the life of God’s own Son was to Him. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) emphasizes what the love of Jesus really is, and what our love should be.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another(John 13:34). Not long after He said this to His disciples, Jesus did lay down His life for them. This explains what He meant when He said “as I have loved you.” And those who believe in Christ should come up to this level of love also. When Christ came down from Heaven to Earth, He laid His royal majesty and glory aside. He loved man more than all of it—enough to give His very life for those who are so very dear to Him. This was the great love of Christ for His people, the very highest example of love among men.

The love Christ has for us He demonstrated in “laying down My life for My friends.” Jesus was referring to His atoning death which everyone needs, whether His enemies or His friends. It was His high purpose to display the greatest love there can be—the sacrifice of ourself for those we love. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). He confidently stated that the friendship kind of love He had was so strong, so intense, that He was willing to make this ultimate sacrifice for those He loved so dearly.

There are some people who would be willing to give time, or money, or position, etc. to benefit their friends. But the one element we all recognize as proof of love and friendship is when a friend is willing to deny himself on our behalf.

And the highest proof there can be of human love is when someone is willing to give up his or her life for the sake of a friend’s life. God gave the very highest proof possible to prove His love. Nothing could be more precious than the life of the One who is the Word of God, who was made flesh for our benefit. The most precious proof was the sacrifice Jesus made of His own life on behalf of His friends.

It was by Christ’s teaching that man received knowledge about God. But it was by His death on the cross that man was able to receive salvation. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to win our hearts and make us His true friends. He brought a spiritual principle and power to our nature to tie us to Him in devotion and thankfulness for all time. Jesus was saying that we should love our brothers and sisters in the Lord with love of the same kind and high degree that He manifested for us. For the good of our friends, we must be ready even to die. Christ is love, and if we love as He loved, then we must be willing even to die for each other—one of the greatest needs among God’s people today. Ask yourself today—how high is my love for others, compared to Christ’s love for me?

 

[Image credit:Gerd Altmann/Pixabay]

Born to Die?

Since the time of creation billions have been born into this world, lived out their lives and then died. Yet out of these there was only one who was born to die. Over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was born as a man to make a way for all of those who accept and believe in Him to have life for eternity.

No king, queen or leader of a nation, no prophet, apostle or leader of a religious organization was ever born to die for every human being who lived, is living or is yet to be born. Not a single person in the history of the world ever sacrificially gave their life like He did.

Jesus came to this world so that we could have everlasting life. He took on Himself all of our sins to the cross where he willingly gave His life. He loved us so much that paid a debt that we could never possibly repay, a debt He did not owe.

Whether it is Christmas day or any day of the year let us remember the One who was born to die so that we, if we accept Him, might live forever.

To find out more about accepting Jesus into your heart and life please click here.

 

[Image credit: Jeff Jacobs/pixabay & Derek Boggs/freeimages]