Christianity 201

July 24, 2017

Mystery: God’s Transcendence and God’s Friendship

Last year at this time we quoted Gary Henry at WordPoints as part of a longer article. Today we’re back with two recent posts from his site which show two sides of God: That he is wholly other (transcendence) and can also be our friend (immanence).  Click the titles of each to read at source and then take some time to look around the rest of the site.

Awed by God’s Grandeur

“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:17).

ON SOME LEVEL, EVERY HUMAN BEING CAN UNDERSTAND THE AMAZEMENT OF JACOB WHEN HE REALIZED WHAT HE WAS SEEING

As he slept that night at Bethel, fleeing from his brother’s wrath and with a stone as his pillow, he dreamed of “a ladder [that] was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). Above the ladder was God Himself, who spoke to Jacob words of promise and hope. And having grasped this portion of God’s greatness, Jacob was a man changed for the better.

Like Jacob, we need to contemplate the majesty of God and the marvel of His communication with His creation. Nothing is more healthy for us spiritually than to be struck by the wonderful lightning of God’s grandeur. It is a truly transforming experience.

It was Immanuel Kant who said, “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe — the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” The connection between these two sources of wonder is more than coincidental. We can’t give serious consideration to God’s greatness without being appalled by the huge chasm between His perfection and our imperfection. To be awed by God’s grandeur is to be moved to turn away from anything inconsistent with His glory. Thus for fallen creatures like us, there must always be strong elements of humility and repentance in worship. “Repentance is the process by which we see ourselves, day by day, as we really are: sinful, needy, dependent people. It is the process by which we see God as he is: awesome, majestic, and holy” (Charles Colson). For us, godly sorrow should be a quite natural part of our reverence.

God’s grandeur . . . our need . . . unutterable awe. These things are the very heartbeat of religion. If we really live in God, we’ll lose ourselves in wonder before Him.

For worship is a thirsty land crying out for rain,
It is a candle in the act of being kindled,
It is a drop in quest of the ocean, . . .
It is a voice in the night calling for help,
It is a soul standing in awe before the mystery of the universe, . . .
It is time flowing into eternity, . . .
[It is] a man climbing the altar stairs to God.
(Dwight Bradley)

What Good Is God’s Friendship?

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

COULD WE POSSIBLY PUT A PRICE TAG ON GOD’S FRIENDSHIP?

Even among all the good things that are available to us, is there anything that a wise person wouldn’t give up in order to have God? The privilege of knowing God through Christ so far surpasses the value of everything else that Paul said he would gladly “count all things loss” in order to have this one thing.

God’s friendship is good not because it “pays” us to be His friend, but simply because of God Himself. Whatever blessings may flow from God (and there are many indeed), these are only secondary benefits or by-products of our friendship with Him. If such things ever take center stage and become our primary motivation, they cease to be good things and become idols. Nothing must be allowed to take the place of God in our hearts, not even God’s own gifts to us. To have God alone is to have wealth untold, and to be without Him is the very definition of poverty.

But although God’s friendship surpasses the worth of anything else in existence, we not only fail to value it as we should, but there are times when we go so far as to trade it away. Faced with a choice between God’s friendship and that of our worldly peers, we often seek the favor of our peers by doing things that greatly damage our relationship with God. Maybe we suppose that we can have it both ways, or maybe we’re just being thoughtless. But in any case, we’re being quite foolish when we try to maintain equal measures of God’s friendship and the friendship of the world. James put it bluntly: “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23,24).

“We regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire” (Gregory of Nyssa).

 

 

July 17, 2017

Walking with Jesus

NLT Gen 3:8a When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden…

Gen 5:23-24a Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God.

Gen. 6:9b Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

Sometimes preparation for articles on the other blog result in finding articles that are well suited for use here at C201. That was the case with this piece by Joanna Pierce, writing for the blog of Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Bloomington, Illinois. Each day when we include an article here, we ask you to click through to the original page. To further encourage that, we usually don’t borrow the graphic images the author created for that piece, so your reward is greater when you click through. With this one, we simply had to include their graphic, only to find that it was used on every page of their articles/blog section. It fit this theme so well.

Just a Little Walk with Jesus

There are those perfect days when the sun is shining, the temperature is at a balmy 73° degrees, and the wind is flowing through the atmosphere, providing a cool and pleasant touch to the day. Whether we’re an outdoor or indoor type of person, we all develop an inkling to get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather.

There’s something about taking a stroll down the sidewalk that helps us drink in the day. We can appreciate the warmth of the sun on our skin, the agreeable breeze whisking around our cheeks, and the soft, rhythmic pitter-patter of our footsteps in our ears—an inviting, constant sound in the chaotic melodies of life.

Regardless of if the weather cooperates, it’s still nice to get out and walk! Walking helps us maintain a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. Wonderful things happen when we walk—our stress is relieved, the release of endorphins makes us emotionally happier, our self-confidence is improved, and we get to enjoy the great outdoors! Even walking with certain people will help improve our mood.

Where we walk, who we walk with, and how we walk, all affect the true benefit of walking. And, while these factors help with our physical life, they also provide spiritual benefits as well.

How does walking help? Just look in the Scriptures!

Genesis tells us about 3 men who walked with the Lord: Adam (3:8), Enoch (5:24), and Noah (6:9). We’re even told that Adam typically walked with God in the cool of the day—he capitalized on the time and temperature of the day to maximize the benefit of walking!

Scripture tells us that these men not only walked physically with the Lord, but they also walked spiritually with the Lord. The word walked is the same Hebrew word in all settings of Scripture in Genesis. Walked literally means to come near and continue with.

Remember when I said where we walk and who we walk with all affect the true benefit of walking? Walking with the devil, or following our own flesh/desires is going to get us into a lot of trouble. I can guarantee this walking isn’t going to have any benefit in our spiritual life. But, when we draw close to God and come near to Him, the benefits are endless.

Coming near to God helps us to develop a close, intimate relationship with Him. Not only will He know us, but we’ll know Him! We’ll cultivate a friendship and love for Him that can’t be found in this world. Enoch walked so closely with God that God took him from this earth (Genesis 5:24). He may have walked right up to heaven with the Lord—we’ll have to wait until Heaven to find out!

When we stay close to someone, they start to rub off on us. We act like they do. When we continue in the presence of God, His Spirit will dwell in our life. That Spirit will help us live a life that’s pleasing to Him; we’ll be able to imitate Christ! Noah was considered perfect in the eyes of the Lord because he walked with Him (Genesis 6:9).

Today, let’s start our daily walks with the Lord. Physical walks may eventually wear out the body, but continued spiritual walking with the Lord will help rejuvenate us for the road ahead. All it takes is just a little walk with Jesus. I promise you’ll quickly see the benefit in your life.


Read more articles at this link

 

 

December 1, 2016

Creation. Where the Christmas Story Begins . . .

o-come-o-come-emmanuel
by Clarke Dixon

If someone asked you to tell them the story of Christmas, where would you start? With the angels announcing to Mary and Joseph that a baby is on the way? Or perhaps with the prophets of the Old Testament announcing that the Messiah would someday be on His way? That is still not going far enough back for the Christmas story goes right back to Creation. How so?

Imagine you are attending a synagogue service sometime before Jesus is born. The rabbi has read from the scroll of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. You wonder what it must have been like for Adam and Eve in the Garden before the Fall. You ask yourself “What did Adam and Eve enjoy during that time that we are missing out on now?”

Perhaps some of you will think of being naked and unashamed! Perhaps not. Some of you may think of the wonderful non-violence of that time and place. Even in the animal kingdom there was a sense of peace and non-violence:

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. Genesis 1:30 (NRSV)

How things have changed, with violence marking both the animal kingdom, and so called civilization.

However, the biggest change of all, and the thing you should miss the most, is the full-blown presence of God. God is spoken of as walking in the garden as any person might, and only after the “apple debacle” do Adam and Eve feel that His presence is a scary thing.

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 (NRSV)

We get a sense that before the eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve could spend time with God as easily as we might spend time with a family member or good friend.

Imagining life in the Garden of Eden, you would miss the presence of God without someone pointing to the Temple. The Temple was a symbol of God’s love; “I want to dwell with you.” But it was also a symbol of separation; “Because I am holy and you are not, I must dwell separated from you, in a holy place.” The Temple was a constant reminder that we are not in the Garden of Eden anymore. Adam and Eve enjoyed the full presence of God without the need for a Temple.

Imagining life in the Garden of Eden, you would also miss the presence of God without the need for a priesthood. The priesthood was again a symbol of God’s love; “I want a relationship with you.” But it was also a reminder of separation; “I am holy, and you are not, therefore we cannot have a relationship. You need people who are holy, separated out from you, to stand between you and me.” Adam and Eve could speak freely with God with no need for priests.

Imagining life in the Garden of Eden, you would also miss the presence of God without all the rigmarole of religion. The ritual purity code again is another reminder of separation from God. By setting up the religious code, God was revealing proper morality, yes, but was also in effect saying; “There are a lot of things you need to change about yourself before you can even approach me.” Adam and Eve did not need to get all religious when in the Garden.

So does Christmas change anything? There are signs that Christmas is part of everything changing! If you were God and you chose to be incarnate, where would you choose to be born? Perhaps in the Temple to remind the people of the separation that exists between yourself and humanity? God chose a different emphasis. Could you get any less temple-like than being laid in a manger? This is an “unclean” place.

Likewise, if you were God, who would you invite to be the first to come and see your infant Son? Perhaps it should be the priests, the people most focused on holiness? Nope, the Lord sends an invitation to shepherds, whose ritual holiness would be impossible to keep given their work with animals. And they come straightaway. No need to stop for purity focused observances. They come to Jesus without getting all religious about it.

The point is clear. God’s focus at Christmas is to be with us, right here in our mess, even though we are not worthy of Him. In place of our worth, is His grace. Where the temple, the priesthood, and even religion stood as symbols of separation, Christmas stands as a symbol of Presence.

Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

I don’t recall where I first heard this, but Christmas is God with us, while Easter is God for us, and Pentecost is God within us. We can point to “the end,” to Christ’s return as our being with God as Adam and Eve were with God in the beginning.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; Revelation 21:1-3

Just as there was no temple in the Garden of Eden, that symbol of our separation from God is not found in the future:

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. Revelation 21:22

Christmas, with its emphasis on “God with us,” points back to Creation when God was with Adam and Eve, to the present time as we enjoy God’s presence through the Holy Spirit, and forward to the great re-Creation when God will be with His people in the profound way He had in mind from the beginning.

What is your greatest delight at Christmas? Perhaps family? Or turkeys? (Hopefully you know the difference!) Perhaps time off work? Time away? Gifts? Or eggnog? God’s great delight and desire, which Christmas points to, is the realization of His original purpose in Creation; a loving relationship with people. While you may be into the eggnog, He is into you. He has prepared a wonderful Christmas gift, His presence, now, and for all eternity. Have you received that gift yet?

 All scripture references are from the NRSV

For those reading this the first week of December, 2016, click this link for a puppet script which was also part of the service containing this teaching.

September 27, 2015

Enoch Walked With God

Featured writers here range from Reformed to Baptist to United Methodist to Alliance to Assemblies of God. Rick Joyner is a well known voice within the Charismatic movement that we’ve never included here, until today. Click the link below to read this daily devotion online.

Walking With God

Then Jared lived eight hundred years after he became the father of Enoch….
And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him (Genesis 5:19, 21-24).

Enoch is one of the most remarkable and inspirational characters in the Bible. He walked with God in such a way that he did not have to taste death because God just took him. We read in Hebrews 11:5:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

Adam was still alive during Enoch’s days. It is probable that Enoch talked with Adam about what it was like to have walked with God before the Fall. Something must have stirred within him, a desire to have that same kind of intimate relationship to God that Adam once had, and he pursued it. God responded.

Nowhere does it say in Scripture that Enoch is the only one who can do this. In fact, we are promised in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We are all as close to God as we want to be. The veil has been rent and we can all enter into the presence of the Lord by the blood of Jesus. We can be as close to God as anyone in the Scriptures has been. This is not a presumption, because the Scriptures are full of invitations for us to draw near to Him. He created us for that purpose, to have fellowship with Him. If there is anything that can measure the degree to which redemption has worked in our lives, it would be how close we are to Him. The only thing that prevents us from being as close to God as Enoch is our own desire.

Our God is an awesome, holy God. He is a consuming fire, and when we get close to Him the wood, hay, and stubble in our lives will burn. Even so, we do not have to wait until we are perfect to draw near to God, but it is by drawing near to Him that we are changed, as we read in Hebrews 4:15-16:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

If we sin and fall short of the grace of God, we must learn to run to Him, not away from Him as Adam and Eve did. We can never hide from Him anyway, but He has also proven throughout the Scriptures that He will not force us to come close to Him. We have to want to be close enough to Him to seek Him. He promised in Jeremiah 29:13: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” If we are going to be that close to Him, we must desire Him enough to sacrifice all of the things that would distract us. We must choose to draw near to Him when we could be doing other things.

We have another very interesting statement about Enoch in Jude 14, “And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones.'” Enoch is the very first one recorded in Scripture who prophesied. This reveals the true essence and foundation of an authentic prophetic ministry, which is simply to get so close to God that you are His friend. Friends share their plans and purposes with each other. That is why the Lord said in Amos 3:7: Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.”

Nowhere has the Lord obligated Himself not to do anything without first revealing it to His prophets. He does this because He wants to. He wants to because the prophets are His friends. There is nothing that prevents us from being that close to God. There is nothing that says we cannot walk with God to the point that He just takes us up like He did Enoch. Could this in fact be what the rapture really is?

October 3, 2013

God Lets Us In On His Plans and Purposes

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7 (NIV)

The Reformation Study Bible says that God acts, God reveals himself and God interprets his actions through the prophets. In the first such instance,

God revealed His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham, the first “prophet” so designated in Scripture (Gen 18:17, 20:7) Moses, the supreme Old Testament prophet, was called “the servant of the Lord” (Deut. 34:5). Subsequent prophets were characterized by the similar phrase, “my servants the prophets”

On this passage, Matthew Henry writes:

The secret of God is with them [the prophets]; it is in some sense with all the righteous (Prov. 3:32), with all that fear God (Ps. 25:14), but in a peculiar manner with the prophets, to whom the Spirit of prophecy is a Spirit of revelation. It would have put honour enough upon prophets if it had been only said that sometimes God is pleased to reveal to his prophets what he designs to do, but it speaks something very great to say that he does nothing but what he reveals to them, as if they were the men of his counsel. Shall I hide from Abraham, who is a prophet, the thing which I do? Gen. 18:17. God will therefore be sure to reckon with those that put contempt on the prophets, whom he puts this honour upon.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:15 (NIV)

There is a connection between this New Covenant verse and the Old Covenant verse quoted from Amos. Although we refer to Jesus’ closest followers as “The Twelve,” “disciples,” or even “apostles,” there is a real sense in which we could describe them as “prophets,” since they received considerable revelation of God Himself, even if we don’t speak of ‘the prophet Matthew,’ or ‘the prophet Nathaniel.’

However, at the same time, this verse breaks the connection between “prophets” and “servants,” because in this New Covenant, the relationship between God the Son and The Twelve is going to be more relational, hence “friends.” Again, the Reformation Study Bible states,

No longer do I call you servants There is no previous record of Jesus Christ calling the disciples “servants,” except possibly 12:26; yet Jesus had a right to do this, as He had the right to be called “Lord” (13:13). “Friend” suggests a close relation, and the language of brotherhood is closer still (Heb. 2:10, 11).

all . . . I have made known Christ did not have a higher revelation reserved for an inner group; He revealed Himself to the disciples unstintingly.

If the U.S. President wants to let people know about some plan or scheme or program the government is initiating, he can choose to make it known through his Press Secretary. We often see this man standing in the Press Briefing Room, and clearly he is speaking for the President. However, he is doing this as a servant.

But imagine if you knew the President as a friend. He might let you in on the same information, but he would be confiding in you as a friend. Then, when the information can be released, you would share it with your friends as you heard it, not under orders, or under a requirement to do so, but out of the overflow of your heart from what the head of state shared with you.

From the first days of creation, God asked Adam to name the animals, making him a partner in creation. In the New Testament we are called friends of God.

Click the link to read a previous post here containing the video for the song Friend of God.

April 13, 2012

Potpourri

Sometimes you are in a place where no worship song, no Christian book, no preacher or not even a close friend or relative can help you. Aren’t you glad that there is a ‘very present help in time of need?’. There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother! His name is Jesus! His presence is the most satisfying thing on earth! One moment with Him can change your life forever!

Matthew Murray
(www.shakethenations.com)

via Living4Christ


I’m struck again by the strangeness of the ending of Mark’s gospel. No angels. No visitations. No Emmaus. No breakfast. Just silence .

And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid
Mark 16: 8

Jesus is alive – the best news ever! But Mark gives us no account of the risen Jesus, just the fear and silence of his followers. I know that there are alternative endings to Mark – at least two of them. But I’m certain that Mark intended to end in this strange way. And I’m glad he did – it’s a great comfort to me.

Though Jesus followers fail him even at the resurrection, still the gospel goes on. Despite the silence of those followers, the message gets out. Jesus is alive!

We sometimes talk as though the ’success’ of the gospel depends on us. If only we would follow this program, use that prayer scheme, read the Bible in such a way, worship in a particular style – then God would bless us and all would be well. But the message of Mark is that at best the followers of Jesus are only ever playing ‘catch up’ with him. If a tomb could not contain him, then the failure of his followers will not constrain him either.

I find that curiously reassuring.

Richard Hall at Connexions


This past Sunday morning – I received a text from a friend that included five of the most powerful and encouraging words ever.  The text said: “Praying for you this morning.”

I cannot tell you how that lifted my spirits and encouraged me to preach with even greater passion.  I know that many people are praying for me weekly, but this text was so encouraging because there’s nothing I need more than your prayer.

In fact, if you want your Pastor to study well, to prepare well and to preach well – you need to pray well for your Pastor.

~B. J. Rutledge, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Paradise, Texas


“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (II Cor. 8:9).

In the genius of the blessed Trinity, our cruel rejection of Jesus became the way of our adoption; our bitter abuse became the way of the Father’s embrace and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit. For how could our unfaithfulness and contempt and treachery, or the enslaving lie of the evil one, or death itself break the love and oneness and life of the blessed Trinity?  In dying at our hands, Jesus brought his life into our death, his relationship with his Father into our gnarled pathology, his anointing by the Holy Spirit into our twisted darkness. Out of his boundless love “he was dishonored that he might glorify us,” (Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, I.5.) “he endured our insolence that we might inherit immortality”(Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, §54). Suffering our abuse to give us grace, he met our cruelty with his kindness, our rejection with his merciful acceptance, and our dead and despairing religion with his joy.  By accepting us at our very worst, by submitting himself to us in our great darkness, he entered into our world with his, thus transforming the shack of Adam’s horrid fall into the house of his Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

In a variation on St. Paul’s great statement we might say, “For you know the stunning grace of the Father’s Son: that though he was rich in the shared life of the blessed Trinity, yet for our sake he became poor, suffering our wrath to meet us, and that now through his suffering we who were so poor have been included in Jesus’ own rich relationship with his Father in the Spirit.”

~Baxter Kruger, The House of His Father

Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere.  An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives.  The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

July 14, 2011

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

I sat down yesterday for a half hour with a woman who recently returned from a two month missions trip to Africa sponsored by Youth For Christ.  She told me that she and her husband were sent there primarily to be encouragers to the YFC team, and to share the message of I John 4.  All of John’s first epistle echoes with the message of God’s love, but here is the passage she was referring to:

NIV I John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.   God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

The message that “God is Love” is one of the first thing children learn in Sunday School, or whatever you term its modern equivalent.  “Jesus loves me, this I know…”  It seems so basic, so obvious that chances are many of you read the above passage so rapidly that any new truths that could be revealed from the passage didn’t have the split-seconds necessary to take root.

Let’s slow it down and play back the last two-thirds from The Message Bible:

 13-16This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.

 17-18God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. 19We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

 20-21If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.

Think about it… trained missionaries with a respected Christian organization need to be reminded that they are loved by God.  They can’t reach out to others with God love until they feel the embrace of that perfect love for themselves.  They need to be immersed in the awareness of God’s love for them before they can share it with others.

Where does that leave you and I?

My guess is that many efforts at evangelism are thwarted because the “sent ones” lack the 100% conviction that God truly loves them, and I include myself as often guilty of this as well.  Some will say that today’s item wasn’t exactly Christianity 201, but more like 101.  I wonder if the truth of knowing the love of our Heavenly Father is really more like Christianity 301 or 401?

~Paul Wilkinson

Just a reminder, here at C201, scripture passages are usually in green to remind us that God’s word is life.