“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17
If you’re like me, you sometimes hesitate to talk about your faith and, usually, our silence is because we’re afraid:
Afraid someone might ask a question we can’t answer.
Afraid they’ll think we’re not very sophisticated in our thinking.
Afraid we just won’t say it right.
Here’s where Paul comes in with a God-given insight (see verse above): It’s not about our intellectual words, knowing all the answers, or having the power to persuade – it’s about Jesus. When we simply point people to Jesus, his message, his actions, and his cross, we can’t go wrong. Paul says, in fact, that if we’re too good in arguing our point or using impressive words, the attention goes to us and our message falls flat. If we can direct someone to Jesus and the cross, Paul says, that’s where the power is. Not us – him. That was Paul’s message to the people of Corinth in the 1st century and it’s ours today.
So, if someone asks what we believe or why we have hope or peace in this sometimes-crazy world, let’s not get sidetracked with reconciling the Bible with science or theorizing about prophecies. Let’s just talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and what he has promised to those who follow him. Then he does the rest. No more fear!
“The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took them upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.'”- Billy Graham
If I had lived when Jesus was here and if I knew he was God, I think I would have been afraid. If God is holy and all-knowing, he must surely be angry at humans. But no! The good news is he came to do away with sin, not us! His disciple John explains it this way: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8b).
John also tells us Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). He knew the world was a mess and we humans are a mess, but he put the blame exactly where it belongs: on Satan! He came to free his children from Satan’s grasp, to invite us into relationship with himself, and to make us better people. He came to reveal the irrational love of the Father for all his children trapped in a world of evil. He came to love us, not to hurt us.
Every human since has had to decide how to respond. At some point, we’ll be accountable for the choice we made: Did we choose to allow him to free us from sin’s stranglehold, or did we choose to continue on a hopeless path without him? We’re not responsible to untangle ourselves from all the trouble sin brings, but we are responsible for the choice we make about Jesus and his invitation to be his.
I hope you choose Jesus this Christmas. And if you already know him, choose to know him better!
“The loving mission of our Lord Jesus Christ was not to condemn but to forgive and reclaim.” – A. W. Tozer
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” – 1 John 3:16a
Do you ever wonder of God really loves you? If you do, take a few minutes to think about the cross. Jesus, God in a human body, nailed to the cross, bruised, broken, bleeding. He hadn’t done anything wrong! He was tried in two courts and found innocent. Even his enemies couldn’t pin any crime on him. He could have been living in powerful luxury in Heaven, yet he subjected himself to human decisions and ultimate cruelty. And all for one reason: Because he loves us – you and me.
Author Brennan Manning tells the story of his friend Ray who fought with him on the frontlines of war. As they sat talking in a foxhole one evening, a grenade dropped in beside them. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, and threw himself on the grenade, saving Brennan’s life, but losing his own. Years later when Brennan visited Ray’s mother, he asked if she thought Ray really loved him. Her emotional response, “What more could he have done for you?”*
Self-sacrifice is the greatest evidence of love there is. Jesus sacrificed more than we can ever imagine. And all for one reason: He loves us and wants us to be in an intimate relationship with him, now and forever. There’s no need to wonder if he loves you. What more could he have done? Maybe we just need to believe he meant it!
“It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father’s will—and it was his love for sinners like me.” ― D.A. Carson
*Story told in The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith
“God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.” – Job 37:5
Someday, we’ll hear Jesus’ voice with our ears and not just our inner selves. When we do, I think it will be unlike any we’ve ever heard, it will be God’s voice in a human body – one we will want to listen to forever!
It was his creative voice that said, “Let there be light” and the worlds came into being (Genesis 1:3; John 1:3).
It is his majestic voice that thunders over the waters (Psalm 29:3).
It is his gentle voice that says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (John 11:28).
It was his authoritative voice that brought Lazarus alive from the grave (John 11:43).
It is his redemptive voice that says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 22:34).
As Henry Blackaby has said, “A word from Jesus changed everything!” And it still does. It will be Jesus’ voice that will someday welcome me into his eternal presence. I hope you have that amazing anticipation, too!
Presently, Jesus’ voice is internal to us, quiet messages in our hearts and through his Word. Let’s not miss what he is saying, because his voice inside us is more than a message, it’s an invitation to relationship – day-by-day, hour-by-hour, forever. So, with open ears and hearts, let’s keep listening!
“Specifically, in our attempts to understand how God speaks to us and guides us we must, above all, hold on to the fact that learning how to hear God is to be sought only as a part of a certain kind of life, a life of loving fellowship with the King and his other subjects within the kingdom of the heavens.” – Dallas Willard
“I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and He will hear me.” – Psalm 77:1 (ESV)
Most of us pray silent prayers in our minds, and I know God hears those prayers. Heart/mind prayers are a way of communicating with him even while we are walking down the street or sitting in a meeting.
But there are times when we might be better off praying out loud. I think God loves to hear our voices as much as we love to hear his. And, guess who else is listening? Satan can’t read our thought prayers, but he can hear our vocalized prayers. I think it makes him shake in his boots to hear us giving ourselves and our problems to God.
There’s another reason, though, to give voice to our prayers: When we are speaking aloud, we think more clearly about our words, and our minds don’t wander as they often do when we are praying silently – and we all have that problem! As we listen in on our own prayers, we begin to know our own hearts.
A friend of mind who, at one time in his career, had a long commute to work, said he used to imagine Jesus sitting in the passenger seat of his car as he pulled out of the driveway. He would talk out loud to Jesus most of the way to work, sharing his stresses, praying for his wife, and committing the day into the all-powerful hands of his divine passenger.
If you don’t already practice praying out loud, you may want to try it. Prayer can become conversation that makes a difference!
“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” – Charles Spurgeon
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” – Psalm 119:130
Have you ever watched a legal drama on television? First we hear the prosecution’s case and it’s clear the guy is guilty. Then the defense presents its case and we aren’t so sure any more. The same thing happens when we hear the other side of an argument – particularly those about theological or sociological issues. If we listen openly to a well-presented response to our viewpoint, we may walk away saying, “I never thought of it that way before.” Don’t you like those moments of insight that open up new possibilities of thinking for you? I do!
In Acts 9, we read about Saul. He was persecuting followers of Jesus because he thought he knew the whole story about this now-dead Jewish rabbi. Then he was confronted by the resurrected Jesus and the encounter left him physically blinded, but spiritually enlightened. He was sent to Ananias in the city of Damascus. Ananias touched him and the Bible says something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see clearly. The restoration of his eyesight evidenced the truth that he had met the Christ, but the greatest miracle, to me, is the opening of his spiritual eyes so he could now see the world around him as God does: without prejudice, arrogance, or fear. Everything changed for Saul when he met Jesus and, for the first time, saw him as Lord.
“Dear Lord, I acknowledge the way I see things may be wrong. Remove the scales from my eyes so I can see the world, people, and your work among us as you do – with an understanding mind and loving heart.”
“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.”– Blaise Pascal
“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” – 1 John 2:6
I’m going for a hike today with women who love to be outdoors following mountain trails in the sunshine of Colorado. They have led me to waterfalls, wildflowers, and picturesque views. Every hike with them is a new adventure!
This morning I read in John’s epistle that those who follow Jesus should walk as he walked. I took that literally as I contemplated my day. Jesus was a hiker. He and his disciples walked everywhere they went, so we have some clues as to how Jesus walked. Two things come to mind.
First, Jesus observed the world around him and drew lessons from what he saw. When they were in an olive grove, he talked about vines and branches. When he saw a farmer sowing seed, he talked about the seed as the Word of God, when he looked at grainfields, it made him think of the many people whose hearts were ready to believe. I hope to observe the world around me as I walk today to see God’s fingerprints in creation, and to invite him to speak to me through his handiwork.
Second, Jesus related to the people with whom he walked: his close disciples, general followers who joined along the way, and people who interrupted his journey with specific needs. For me, my companions will be women who have become friends along the footpaths together over the past months.
Where are you walking today? And who will walk with you? As followers of Christ, we are to walk as he did: Aware of the world around us and lovingly attentive to those who share the journey.
“Jesus was God spelling himself out in language humanity could understand.” – S.D. Gordon