Tag Archives: John 3:16

Finding Peace in the Midst of Racism and Identity Politics

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

There is hope, even in these turbulent times. The spirit of the world is divisive, angry, hateful and racist. Those forces can deeply affect how we view ourselves and those around us. But looking to Jesus brings us clarity, charity and peace.

Increasing racial tensions can quickly resurrect old wounds and cause them to burn with a vengeance. We can find bitterness an easy path to take, but it is one which wounds us even more deeply.

In our broken world, we are all wounded, often deeply, by the differences that divide us. Racism – and other divisive beliefs and attitudes – permeate this world, wounding and dividing us. But we can be at peace – and be peacemakers – in the midst of this turmoil.

Jesus rejected racism and identity politics. In Him, we “are all one” – transcending all racial, class and gender distinctions. Jesus prayed to our Father: “ I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23).

How is that possible? Because we have Christ incarnate in us. The glory Jesus gave us is Himself.

We are a new creation in Jesus Christ, who reconciled us to God and “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

Now, we can have healing in our hearts and in our relationships through Jesus Christ. Jesus can – and will – heal our deepest wounds and soften the hardness of our own hearts.

At the cross, we see other people by the value of His blood. We see people of infinite worth in God’s eyes. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

We all need transformed hearts that are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It is especially at troubled times like these that we must listen to and talk with one another. In so doing – in extending the grace, love and forgiveness of God to others – we minister to them and bring reconciliation.

Let us not get caught up in the superficial, the outward appearance, but rather look to one another as equals – brothers and sisters of Christ who are all equal at the foot of the cross.

Let us love one another, as God loves us.

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Life at the Cross!

An instrument of cruel death was used by God to bring life to all.

The Easter season celebrates the fulfillment of Jesus’ most beloved words in John 3:16: “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.”

Life at the Cross

Jesus fulfills those words at the cross. There, he paid the penalty for all of our sins (1 Pet. 3:18, Rom. 6:8, Heb. 9:28). And it is there where we find Him to receive the gift of everlasting life (Rom. 6:23). It is a free gift when we repent in faith.

Jesus actually predicted the manner of His death in the words preceding his great promise. In John 3:14-15, we read: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Notice that verses 15 and 16 end with almost identical words. Why? Because Jesus was drawing a parallel between a spectacular Old Testament event (which prefigured the salvation which would be provided at the cross) with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

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As recorded in Numbers 21:4-9, the ancient Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness. God punished them with “fiery serpents who bit them, killing many. After the people repented, God provided a means of salvation:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

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In similar fashion, whenever anyone who has sinned looks at Jesus  in repentance and faith, they shall live.

Speaking to the crowd, Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). The next verse expressly states, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”

Just as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole to save all those who looked at it, God lifted up Jesus on a cross to save all those who put their faith in Him.

Let us all turn to Jesus, who beckons us with arms wide open, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

Being Connected to the Love of Our Creator

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NIV)

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We are all passionately loved by God, but sadly few know it.

Our world is lost and going to hell, not knowing it needs God. Thus, many people are missing out on a personal connection with the One who created them in his image, the One who desires to share an eternity of love with them.

To reveal his great love for us, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to become one with us. God clothed him in human flesh (John 1:10) and he walked among us. We joyfully celebrate this act of love during the Christmas season and at Easter.

Think about that: God actually stepped down into our world to save it. And he has been redeeming it ever since.

Jesus and the first-century church turned the world right-side up by preaching the gospel (Acts 17:6). Today, God sends us to reveal Jesus and God’s love and life to a world lost in darkness. We are called to be God’s life-saving conversation with the world.

On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) This is called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18) and it applies to every generation of believers. It applies to you.

First, will you accept the unconditional love of our Father?

Then, you join become the face, hands, and feet of Jesus to a desperate world?

If the whole church will commit to being the conversation of God’s love to our world, then together we can change the world!

Nothing Matters More Than Jesus

“Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” – Matthew 7:23

 Often, we might think we’re OK. Our culture certainly promotes the “I’m okay, you’re okay” philosophy. The world says you can believe what you want and it will be okay.

But is it true? It is only true if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t, you’re missing out on the most important thing in life!

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Many people know of Jesus, but they do not know him. Do you really know Jesus?

You might think you have a good relationship with Jesus because you go to church, serve other people, give generously, or engage in some other “religious” activity. Yet, if your heart has not been transformed by Jesus, if nothing internally has changed since you came to know who Jesus is, then perhaps there is no relationship. Perhaps other things are taking the place of Jesus in your life.

Jesus warned that many in the judgment would come expecting a reward for their external religious activities, yet Jesus will tell them, “I never knew you.” He will say this because their hearts are not right with God.

The communion service (Luke 22:14-21) celebrates our life in Christ. It affirms our fellowship with Jesus and it commemorates his sacrifice for us. The bread and the wine symbolize his broken body and shed blood. In a very real sense, when we partake of those symbols, we are sharing in his sacrifice and we are celebrating oneness with him.

Communion points to the cross and the cross points to God’s love for us (John 3:16).

If we have Jesus, we have everything we need. If we don’t, then we have nothing.

We all need to periodically reevaluate our lives and our priorities and place Jesus at the top of every list.

Nothing matters more than our relationship with Jesus.

Obama and Reagan on Jesus

In Matthew 10:34, Jesus made a seemingly enigmatic statement: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.” Jesus graphically depicted how differing views of Jesus would divide people.

Obama & Reagan on Jesus

The contrast between views could not be starker between the Left and the Right. One party removed God from its 2012 platform while the other is derided by the Left for its embrace of the Religious Right.

As usual, Jesus is the pivot point, the demarcation line, or, as He put it, the sword which divides. Jesus is either a rock of offense or the foundation of one’s faith.[1]

The head of the Democrat Party, President Obama, views Jesus as a dead social justice activist, while President Reagan, the model for most Republican candidates, viewed Jesus as both alive and divine.

Obama’s Jesus – Social Justice Activist

President Obama’s Christmas message in 2015 was simple and secular. Obama said (emphasis added),

“Today, like millions of Americans and Christians around the world, our family celebrates the birth of Jesus and the values He lived in his own life. Treating one another with love and compassion. Caring for those on society’s margins: the sick and the hungry, the poor and the persecuted, the stranger in need of shelter – or simply an act of kindness.”

With his very next words, Obama watered down the significance of both Christ and Christmas, saying,

“That’s the spirit that binds us together – not just as Christians, but as Americans of all faiths. It’s what the holidays are about: coming together as one American family to celebrate our blessings and the values we hold dear.”

Actually, no. Christmas is about worshiping the newborn Babe and risen King.[2]

While people of all faiths can certainly enjoy this festive time of year, and Americans of all faiths should certainly strive for peace and harmony, only one faith – and, in particular, one Person[3] – is the reason for the season.[4]

God blessed America because people of the Christian faith sought His will in establishing this great nation. Our political, cultural and spiritual heritage is distinctly Christian in nature.[5]

Reagan’s Jesus – Divine

In contrast to Obama’s view of Jesus as a dead social justice activist, Reagan viewed Jesus as both alive and divine.

President Reagan’s 1983 Christmas Eve address (emphasis added):

“We celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace who came as a babe in a manger. Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great teacher and philosopher. But to other millions of us, Jesus is much more. He is divine, living assurance that God so loved the world He gave us His only begotten Son so that by believing in Him and learning to love each other we could one day be together in paradise.”

Speaking of our nation’s Founder, George Washington, Reagan said (emphasis added),

“The image of George Washington kneeling in prayer in the snow is one of the most famous in American history. He personified a people who knew it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness; they must also seek help from God, their Father and Preserver.”

Endnotes:

[1]               See “Attacking the Faith: Did Jesus Say that He is God?” at http://wp.me/p4scHf-P.

[2]               See “Celebrating Christmas” at http://wp.me/p4scHf-ct.

[3]               See “Jesus, the Prince of Peace,” at http://wp.me/p4scHf-6J.

[4]               See “Not a Dickens Christmas” at http://wp.me/p4scHf-cq.

[5]               See “CPAC: America’s Christian Heritage Denied” at http://wp.me/p4scHf-8E.

Celebrating Christmas

At the center of all of the Christmas narratives is the Babe, Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel (“God with us”).

Celebrating Christmas

In the beloved Christmas carol, “O Come Let Us Adore Him,” we sing “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.” This harkens to Jesus’ birth (called the Advent or Incarnation) as recorded in the Gospel of John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

With the birth of Jesus, mankind was introduced to God in the flesh, One who could fully empathize with us and who, now, intercedes on our behalf with our Father in heaven.

Our Father? How?

The Word was born a Babe that we might become children of God. John 1:12 explains, “But as many as received Him, to these He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

Why would God want to share His life with us?

The most well-known Scripture, John 3:16, tells us, “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.”

The apostle John added, “truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4).

The exquisitely joyous Christmas season reminds us of our fellowship with God in Christ, a relationship which should fill us with joy. Every day. And, when we meet our Maker, we will fully experience joy forevermore.

John also revealed a little bit about that time, writing, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Jesus became a human being so that, ultimately, we could might experience spiritual rebirth and be transformed into His image, to become like Him!

These are just a few things to ponder as we celebrate the day of Jesus’ birth.

Without Christ, there is no Christmas. But with Christ, every day is Christmas.