John 15:22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. NLT
Jesus had “come and spoken to them” to make them aware of their guilt. John records this truth about Jesus’s living Word; it reveals the destructive reaction of human nature to the awareness of sin and guilt. That same reaction has lasted across time and many generations. Is there anybody reading this that can’t understand a defensive response when confronted with their sin? Let me answer that for you…NO! Jesus’s Word only requires changing the generic pronoun “they” to make it personal enough to impact our human nature today too.
Hearing Jesus speak about sin in the same sentence with your name awakens an awareness of guilt that leaves you with a choice: defend your sin or take Jesus at His Word. Jesus has “come and spoken to [me].” He speaks to offer this replacement for excuses…opportunity. Opportunity to let defensiveness be replaced with repentance that replaces guilt with forgiveness and Grace.
John 15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
NRSV 1:1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word…8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.
Scepter’s not a common word today so that caught my attention. A scepter is an ornamented staff often used by kings as visual evidence of power but the word also has a practical meaning as something one can lean on for support.
You may have heard a negative description of faith as being a “crutch” as I have. Your reaction may have been as defensive as mine was so it was back to the dictionary for another definition – crutch: a long stick with a crosspiece at the top, used as a support under the armpit by a lame person.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard your faith referred to as a crutch. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been confronted by your own need for support. My heart still has a negative reaction to identifying my faith as a crutch but the reality is my hand is in the air.
My heart and my hand respond today to God’s own words identifying his Scepter: “But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.” My heart and my hand have responded to His Son. Jesus is the righteous scepter God provided for the support of His own Kingdom and for each of us to personally lean on. All you have to do is admit to being lame. 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.
Hebrews 8:10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.[NIV]
Trusting your heart and mind really are under God’s control has to become one of the main disciplines of experience for the believer. There are other experiences we have a better handle on: gathering information from the Bible, the Church, Godly people, prayer and service in the Lord’s name. OK, got it, now what?
That answer to “now what?” is so simple…and yet so much harder because the reality is even those disciplines are not our own. They certainly express our faith, but where did that faith come from? They’re certainly the evidence of experience that proves the reality of our desire to please God, but where did that come from? Faith and desire both came from the simple acceptance of what God promised at the day of our salvation. Simple right?
Just as faithfully as we practice those other disciplines of experience we need to learn to practice this simple truth…“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Simple acceptance is what makes this discipline of trust so much harder. Can you believe God intends you to trust His presence in your mind and heart even when you fail, even when you don’t know which choice to make, or even worse, when you’ve made the wrong one?
Dare to trust living with God’s real promise for your life and believe: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.” All it requires is simple acceptance…but it’s hard evidence of real trust in God.
I Peter 2
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
God has designed our bodies from the inside out. It’s a good design. We have an internal structure that our entire body is built around. We are born the first time with everything in miniature, a tiny skeleton along with tiny muscles and organs that all need to grow in relationship with one another.
The second time we’re born it’s another version of miniature but still a new life. We’re still “newborn babies” and still based on God’s original design..but this time we’re aware of life in relationship to God and equipped with faith to “grow up in your salvation.” There’s a new structure that requires different muscles and organs; “your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” that must grow in relationship with one another into the spiritual house God has designed you to be.
This is God’s truth: ”you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” Go big!
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,… 3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day…. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Long before I recognized Jesus as “Savior” I believed he was the Son of God. Those two things are very different but even in those early days I knew enough to ask: “how can you overcome that life teaches you to build a protective shell around yourself?” That reminded me of this short video. It’s a visual picture of what’s at the heart of evangelism; the desire to nurture the vulnerability of new life with “the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.“ It’s also a lesson about what the heart of an evangelist looks like; prepared, persistent and present.
Do you remember when you were freed from your protective shell you were stuck in? Do you remember how helpless and exposed you felt? Was there an “evangelist” who maybe looked like a neighbor or friend who was prepared to nourish you with their “prayers night and day…by the will of God…according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus?” Maybe today, you’ll have the chance to be an evangelist for someone longing to break out of their shell. This is your reminder: “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you… Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard…” Fly!
II Corinthians 7: 5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, 2018. I have often used a list of Advent readings and explored this season through the eyes of those Scriptures other people chose. This year I’ve made the choice to look for Christmas preparation with my own eyes as I continue exercising my mind in II Corinthians and see where my heart takes me. Today it begins with Paul’s words “we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…” That reality has made the Bible an enduring treasure that still comforts us in our response to the realities of life and provides transformation along with information. Experience has shown me every part of the Bible supports the choice God made on our behalf long ago: the birth of Jesus. Faith in God’s choice changes our choices.
Advent reminds us transformation came in a “small” package to provide a lifetime of therapeutic doses of comfort [grace] that will fill the gaps left by wrong choices and ultimately overcome the accumulation of fatigue, stress, conflict or fear, so our “joy” will be “greater than ever.” That’s my choice for this Advent season.
I hope it will be yours too. Read whatever Scripture you pick with your eyes, your mind, your heart AND your experience. Let’s take God at his Word that Christ is his choice made on our behalf for our transformation and choose to find our Christmas joy in His choice