John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [NRSV]
I read that the word “love” appears in the Gospel of John more often than in the other three gospels combined. We may be familiar with many stories of Jesus showing love during His life as he taught, fed, healed and prayed for people. We’ve learned our lesson well that the complete expression of that love is the death of Jesus followed by His resurrection. That’s the ending.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time of Advent as the embodiment of God’s love for His creation. It almost seemed too simple to even try to write about until another thought entered my mind. Jesus was always present with God. He wasn’t a Heavenly go-fer who did God’s bidding. He was God. That certainly deals with the idea of simple doesn’t it? Jesus knew full well what becoming human meant for Him. He knew His future right from the get-go. We begin this annual celebration knowing the end of the story, Jesus was willing to surrender His own life for us. The beginning of the “love” story is the part that makes this Advent a reality. Jesus loved us enough to enter our world as a helpless infant. His own future on earth began with His willingness to trust that the humanity He entered would become a part of building His life on earth so that His love would become their salvation.
I’ve finally reached Chapter 1 of the book of Hebrews. Honestly this grand finale feels like one of the biggest accomplishments of my years of study. I began at the end of Hebrews and have ended at the beginning of the book to discover this simple proof for myself; there is no “the end” anywhere in it. It’s all about beginning.
God’s provision of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are still at work in every chapter even with my own limitations of what I could comprehend from this theologically challenging book. The weeks of reading with the expectation I would personally discover an ultimate conclusion taught my heart something more than I expected. That is surely the gift of the Word of God.
Chapter 13. ”Outside” is where Christ receives your brokenness and disgrace and makes them his own. It’s the plan of God that we who are outsiders can go to where “new” begins, the Cross.
Chapter 1. I’m in God’s Kingdom because of the provision of that righteous scepter, His Son, “the exact imprint of God’s very being,” being the “crutch” that held me up so I could limp into it.
The ultimate conclusion of the Word of God always leads you to the cross and Christ and the reality there is no “the end” to your beginning.
Grace to you and peace.
V3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and [perseverance]steadfastness of hope [of]in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, 4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;
V5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we [became]proved to be among you for your sake.
V9 For they themselves report about us what kind of a [entrance]reception we had [to]with you, and how you turned to God from [the]idols to serve [the]a living and true God,
V10 and to wait for His Son from [the heavens]heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come.
Footnotes are used to by translators to give more definition to a translated word or phrase. There are eight footnotes listed in this short chapter of 10 verses. That was an emphasis that interested me so I read them substituting the dictionary definitions of the translators [footnotes]. They did just what the translators had hoped.
V3 Look at how our persistence to find hope is changed by that small change of the preposition from in to [of]. It’s Jesus’ own hope for us and his presence with God that makes our persistence and hope real and of value.
V5 ends with the footnote explanation of the reality that even the great Apostle Paul was a work in process. Everywhere he went was still another beginning to be the person God had created him to be among the people God has placed him with. Isn’t that the reality of what God expects of us: to “become” together?
V9 We might believe circumstance is just a random force that life throws at us but in reality circumstance is the new access God provides to reveal to us the reality of the difference between the true God and the idols that constantly distract us.
V10 God knows about access! He speaks with a power only he possesses from his own center of sovereignty to resurrect us from an ordinary life to new access..
There’s a theme here you may have picked up on; the movement of life and circumstance. It could go either way. It can be the very opportunity of new growth or it can be the dismal sense that change is just all about loss. I’m late in posting this Wednesday because we’ve just moved. You talk about a change in circumstance. Everything about moving is like putting your faith in what you can’t possibly know but you’re filled with hope. That’s followed by arriving at the new plaoce and discovering chaos has followed you and all your efforts at control and organization are overcome by the reality of all that “new.” New chaos is just as exhausting as old chaos but now you’re in a place where you are reminded that God really has resurrected you from what you thought was a normal life to the access of new…again.
Promises from Chapter 6: “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.” …I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.” [NIV]
II Corinthians 7:1 Having such great promises as these, dear friends, let us turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves, living in the wholesome fear of God, giving ourselves to him alone. [TLB]
There was a day when we understood those promises of God, turned away from our sin and believed his words: “I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” That first “turning away” brought us the life-changing relief of grace. It was a spectacular beginning but that’s exactly what it was…the first day of the rest of our life.
The relief of grace is God’s gift of courage to look at the challenges of the rest of our life and be willing to confess we still need courage to “turn away from everything wrong, whether of body or spirit, and purify ourselves… giving ourselves to him alone.”