Jesus is Light

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Isaiah 9:2).

Light is certainly one of the most precious things in our world. Without it, we can’t do much of anything. The simplest tasks become all but impossible when darkness envelopes us instead of light.

A lack of light can also strike fear into our hearts and be quite dangerous. If you have ever tried navigating your way through complete darkness, you know this to be true. When you can’t even see your hand two inches in front of your face, it is impossible to walk with purpose and confidence. That is what life is like without Jesus.

Without Jesus there is no purpose in life. Every reason our world produces for our existence comes up empty in the end. Without the light of Jesus, we would be forced to stumble our way through life, bumping into blessings without knowing where they come from and tripping over trials and problems. As we stumble we would always have the terrifying understanding that death could be right around the corner.

Thank God for sending Jesus to be the Light that illuminates our lives. He gives us hope and purpose. He came to remove the darkness of sin by shedding his blood and scatter the shadow of death by rising from the grave. Since our sins have been paid for by his blood, we have the sure confidence that every one of our sins has been removed – even the ones that weigh us down with the most guilt. Since he rose from the grave we have the rock-solid guarantee that death is not the end for us. We too will rise with him to live eternally.

With Jesus lighting up our lives we can live with confidence and purpose. The confidence comes from knowing that nothing can change the fact that our sins have been washed away by his blood and our eternal life guaranteed by his resurrection. Our purpose now is to live every moment to his glory.

How can I be sure God loves me?

The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The lake reflects the sky. The trees are deep, living green. You and your family are healthy and happy. Work has been going great. You feel like a million bucks.

Wouldn’t you agree that God loves you?

Yes, today perhaps.

But clouds may cover the sun tomorrow. The lake can look rough and angry. The leaves will fall. The world can look bleak. Today’s good health turns into tomorrow’s sickness, accident, or death. Things may go sour at work. A family’s fragile happiness can turn to dust. Horrible things like earthquakes and terrorist attacks happen in God’s beautiful world. Then you ask, “Does God still love me? How can I be sure?”

You can’t be sure by looking around in the world. In fact, there’s another complication. We all have the voice called conscience inside us. Conscience tells me that I should do right. It also tells me that sometimes I do wrong. I don’t deserve God’s love. In fact, I deserve to be punished. I can’t be sure that God loves me by looking inside myself.

No, the only way to be sure that God loves you is if he tells you so himself.

He did tell you. He sent his Son Jesus with a message for the world. No one has ever seen God, but God the heavenly Father’s Son came to earth to tell us about him. Jesus tells us that God loves the world—all people. He loves us in spite of all the wrong we do. Jesus showed us God’s love not just with words but in action. He gave his life for us.

So how can I know that God loves me? Not by my experiences in the world. Not by looking inside myself. Only God’s messenger, his own Son Jesus, can tell me for sure. The message Jesus brought is written in the Bible. The Bible brings us Jesus. Jesus says God loves us—always. His word can make us sure of that.

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. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

Protected Information

Mark 13:32-33: Jesus says “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on your guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

Why doesn’t God tell us everything. Wouldn’t it be helpful for us? Wouldn’t it make us better? However, God protected some information because it could be misused.

As Jesus prepared his disciples for the time he would complete his work on this earth, he wanted them to understand there are some things they will never know. This was especially true regarding the last day. He made it clear, no one had that knowledge. Even at that time as he humbled himself to the point of death, he chose not to have that knowledge. Still, wouldn’t it be better if this knowledge were not protected?

In his undeserved love the Lord chose to protect certain information about the last day. His concern was that this knowledge would be misused. He would be right. Because of our sinful nature we would indulge ourselves right up to the time when the Lord would return. We would even feel secure in this destructive life style because we knew that there would always be time to change. But would we?

This is why Jesus makes the last day and hour protected information. He also exhorts us to keep watch and be on guard. Not knowing when Jesus will come suddenly turns our attention to what we need to do to be prepared.

In the time which remains we can dedicate ourselves to grow in his Word and to grow in the peace of his forgiveness. We can dedicate ourselves to a more faithful life of prayer and loving service. This will keep us focused and ready.

Although the day and hour of the Lord’s return is protected information, we can find great joy and peace in what we do know about our Savior and how he prepares us for his return.

How Can I Live in the Presence of God?

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

If you want to live in the presence of a holy, perfect, and righteous God, then you need to be holy, perfect, and righteous yourself. If you are holy, perfect, and righteous, then you can live in his presence and live in his presence forever.

This is the situation that every single human being ever born into this world finds him or herself in. It’s also a problem. A huge problem!

It’s a problem because none of us can meet this standard that our holy, perfect, and righteous God has placed on us. We are, by our very natures, stained with sin and so everything we think, say, and do is stained with sin too. We have failed to meet God’s standard. We have not kept his law in the righteous way that he demands. We deserve to be cast away from his holy, perfect and righteous presence forever.

This is how the story of every single human being ever born into this world would end if…

…if Christ would have never entered into our story. But praise be to God, he did! He entered into the story of humanity as God himself made flesh and into our story for a very important reason. He came to live the righteous life that God demands of us. The righteous life that we could not live on our own he lived in our place–perfect obedience all his life to every last one of God’s laws. Now, his righteous life is for all of humanity as a free gift. So, how does this gift of righteousness become our own?

God’s Word teaches, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Christ’s righteousness becomes our own through faith. Through faith in what Christ has done for us, we personally receive the righteousness that Christ has won for the world. Therefore, through faith in what Christ has done, we stand before our righteous God with the righteousness that he demands from us—not a righteousness we attempt to produce ourselves, but the righteousness that has been gifted to us by Christ. That means, by faith in Jesus we live in God’s righteous presence forever!

Proof of Payment

Years of reckless spending resulted in massive credit card debt. A couple months of following a strict budget couldn’t erase the debt, and he was beginning to feel hopeless. The house that he wanted to buy seemed completely out of reach because his poor credit made it impossible to get any kind of loan from a mortgage company.

Then the letter came. It was from an uncle that he hardly knew. “I want you to have that house. I’ve paid off all of your credit cards and deposited the money for the house in your bank account.”

“How can this be real?” he thought. “I want to believe it, but how can I be sure?” Then he contacted the bank. His account which had been overdrawn the day before now showed a balance that would easily pay for the new house. He looked at online statements from his credit cards. They all read a balance of zero.

It was all true! His debt had been paid! The proof was right there!

Years of sin have resulted in a massive debt that you cannot pay. Attempts at self-control and leading a good life can’t erase the debt. It is easy to feel hopeless. The eternal home that you would love to occupy seems so far out of reach.

Then you read the Bible—that letter from your God describing his love for you. “I want you to have that eternal dwelling in heaven. I sent my Son to pay the debt you owe for your sins. I have credited his perfection to your account so that you are justified in my eyes. Rejoice! Heaven is yours!”

How can this be real? It sounds fantastic, but how can you be sure? How do you know that Jesus’ death paid the price you owe for your sins? His tomb is empty. He died, but then he rose from the grave to life again, proving that he is not just a man, but the Son of God himself; proving that his sacrifice for you was accepted by God as payment for your debt.

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. – Romans 4:25

It’s all true! Your debt has been paid! You are justified before God! Believe it and enjoy the eternal life that is yours!

How do I know there is a God?

Have you ever thought about how many things you know and believe without having seen them? Take gravity for instance. I have never seen gravity, but I see evidence of it all around me. As a matter of fact, we depend on it for almost all of our everyday activities. Gravity holds our cars on the road. It keeps us from floating away into space. We would be in serious trouble without it.

I look at God in very much the same way that I look at gravity. I have never seen him, but I see evidence that he must exist in the world around me. Whether I am taking in a soft summer sunset or a late night display of the constellations, I know that someone took some serious time and effort to get things just right. The Bible puts it this way, “Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:4)

Have you ever taken time to look closely at the world in which we live? Get up a little earlier than normal tomorrow and let the sunrise speak for itself. You decide which is more impressive, the beauty of the sunrise or the fact that it has risen every day in the history of the world. You will hear an inaudible voice in that sunrise. It is God’s voice. (See Psalm 19:1-4)

Perhaps you are more impressed with detail. Take time to count the hairs on one of your arms from your wrist to your elbow. As you notice the delicacy with which each hair is connected, consider how hard plastic surgeons work to duplicate a “normal” hair pattern. They never do get it quite right, do they? All of this is part of God’s great attention to detail and more evidence that he does exist.

I have never seen God, but, like gravity, I know he is here. He has taken the time to leave evidence of his existence all around the world in which we live. Take time to notice it. You will see that he is very real. If you want more, definite information, take time to get to know him better in the Bible.

What Is the Trinity?

“Trinity” means “three-in-one.”  It’s true, the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible.  But the concept is.

The true religion has always stated that there is only one Divine Essence who is called “God.”  From the beginning of time God has revealed himself as the LORD God (Genesis 2:4) and there is no other but him (Isaiah 44:6).  Monotheism set the Hebrews apart from other nations (Deuteronomy 6:4), and Christianity follows the same truth.

God the Father is God.  Jesus spoke of him as “the only true God” (John 17:1,3).  The apostle Paul spoke of God the Father as the creator God and the source of life (1 Corinthians 8:6).

God the Son is God.  Hebrews chapter one emphasizes that fact, explicitly saying “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3).  We believe as the Bible teaches that “in Christ all the fullness of the deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  And we believe that “he is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).  Besides, the Bible attributes to Jesus all the characteristics of God (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus is also to be worshiped as true God (Matthew 28:17; Hebrews 1:6).  The New Testament shows that Jesus is the redeemer of the world from sin and the power of Satan.

God the Holy Spirit is God.  “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).  He is distinguished from the Father and Son when Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, the Spirit of truth, to be with you forever” (John 14:16-17).  The Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal power of God.  He grieves (Ephesians 4:30), and is the person of the Trinity who works faith in our hearts.  Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).  Some people “speak against the Holy Spirit” to their damnation (Matthew 12:32).

There are many places in Scripture that mention all three Persons of the Triune God (Matthew 4:16-17).  God has always presented himself in plural terms (Genesis 1:26).

There are three Persons, each one the complete God, and yet there is no more than one single God.  “We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God” (from the Athanasian Creed of the Christian church).

The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And they are one God.

What is the Holy Spirit’s work?

“Fire the coach!” That’s what happens when a team loses too many times.

Put a group of baseball players together who know how to play the game, but don’t give them a coach for running the bases or telling them where to play on defense, and that team won’t go very far.

So it is in the lives of people.  You don’t have to be a Christian to have a good, moral life. God has given each of us a natural understanding of his will. Everyone in the world knows you can’t steal your neighbor’s house, spouse, or stuff. But this alone does us no good after we die—for no one can be morally perfect!

We needed a “Spiritual Coach.” The Bible calls our Spiritual Coach the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Holy Scriptures to bring people from being morally good to eternally saved.

Some people say, “Don’t I get some of the credit for the good I do in my life?”  The answer is, “No.”  God gets all the credit.  No one would have a desire to obey God or have the ability to obey God if they weren’t first changed or renewed by the Holy Spirit.  The Bible says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

The Holy Spirit uses the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to save us. This powerful Word changes hearts and lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the desire and the ability to live according to God’s will. So you can see, in this sense, that the Holy Spirit gets all the credit for the good we do. In fact, because of our sinful nature, we cannot even cooperate with the Holy Spirit to produce faith and trust in Jesus.

But after Jesus takes possession of our hearts, we have the ability and desire to serve. Even then it isn’t a 50-50 cooperation. We love to serve Jesus because the Holy Spirit living in us motivates us to love and serve Jesus.  He is the Spiritual Coach who trains us, directs us, and leads us on to victory for Jesus’ sake.

If I were the devil I would work very hard at ruining the work of the Holy Spirit.  I would try to keep people away from the Bible and make them think, “I’m good enough the way I am.”  Because if I could keep people away from the Bible, the tool the Holy Spirit uses to bring us and keep us in faith, then I could easily deceive them about their relationship with God, and they wouldn’t even know it!

Let’s recognize the temptation of Satan to try and entice us away from Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will continue to work hard to keep us as God’s children.  Let’s never fire our Spiritual Coach! Let’s enjoy his work in our hearts and lives.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

“We’ve got spirit, yes, we do! We’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?”

That cheer used to bounce back and forth across the gym during high school basketball games. The cheer comes to mind as we talk about the Holy Spirit, because there are those who confuse “spirit,” that is, the emotion or enthusiasm talked about in the cheer, with the Holy Spirit who is spoken of in the Bible. Still others think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal power or energy flowing from God.

The Bible, however, teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, not merely an impersonal force or emotion. It shows this by ascribing to the Holy Spirit intelligence, emotions and will; the key components of personality.

  • In Romans 8:27, for example, the apostle Paul speaks of “the mind of the Spirit,” and adds that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Such a description fits a personal being, but does not fit an impersonal force.
  • The prophet Isaiah says that when the people of Israel rebelled against God they “grieved his Spirit” (63:10). Paul also describes the Holy Spirit as a personal being with emotions when he warns Christians not to “grieve the Spirit of God” by their behavior (Ephesians 4:30). Paul also speaks in Romans 15:30 of “the love of the Spirit.” A person can have emotions, but we could hardly talk about an emotion having emotions.
  • In speaking of spiritual gifts given to God’s people by the Holy Spirit, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit “gives them to each man, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). In other words the Holy Spirit is a being with a will, who distributes spiritual gifts as he decides to or wants to. Being able to make decisions is a characteristic of a personal being.

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity—true God with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is called God in the Bible; when the apostle Peter accused a man named Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, he told him that he had lied to God (Acts 5:4). The Holy Spirit does things only God can do. The Bible says the Holy Spirit was active in the work of creating the universe (Genesis 1:2).

It’s good to know who the Holy Spirit is, but it’s also important to know what the Holy Spirit does. The special work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in Jesus in the hearts of people who could not and would not believe in him on their own. Paul writes: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Holy Spirit does his vitally important work of creating faith in human hearts through the Gospel, the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, died a terrible death on a cross and rose from the dead to take away the sins of the world and give eternal life to all who believe. In fact, right now the Holy Spirit is at work through these words, inviting you–yes, pleading with you–to believe in Jesus as your Savior and giving you that faith as a free gift.

There was a group of believers in the city of Rome in Paul’s day. When that apostle wrote to them, he reminded them that the Holy Spirit had made his home in their hearts, and gave them this wonderful promise: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

School spirit is great, but the Holy Spirit and his work are absolutely essential. May God grant us a rich measure of his life-giving Spirit!

Life is empty without Jesus

 …you were redeemed from the empty way of life… – 1 Peter 1:18

To live in certain parts of Siberia means to live in some extreme conditions. Over the years, observers of people who live in those extreme conditions of Siberia have described an unsettling phenomenon. The phenomenon has come to be known as “Siberian Hysteria.”

A Japanese author has described Siberian Hysteria in this way. He says, “Try to imagine this: You’re a farmer, living all alone on the Siberian tundra. Day after day you plow your fields. As far as the eye can see, nothing. To the north, the horizon, to the east, the horizon, to the south, to the west, more of the same. Every morning, when the sun rises in the east, you go out to work in your fields. When it’s directly overhead, you take a break for lunch. When it sinks in the west, you go home to sleep. And then one day, something inside you dies. Day after day you watch the sun rise in the east, pass across the sky, then sink in the west, and something breaks inside you and dies. You toss your plow aside and, your head completely empty of thought, begin walking toward the west. Heading toward a land that lies west of the sun. Like someone, possessed, you walk on, day after day, not eating or drinking, until you collapse on the ground and die.” That is a description of Siberian Hysteria.

It is also a description of your life and mine without Jesus.

Think about that for a moment. Isn’t it true that the worst part of living as a lost soul in a broken world is just the sheer emptiness of it all? I can do things to occupy my time. I can find enough to eat. I can find a place to sleep. But if I am doing all this in a vacuum, if I am doing all this surrounded by emptiness–emptiness of meaning, emptiness of hope, emptiness of anything that matters–isn’t it true that I am just a case of Siberian Hysteria waiting to happen?

That’s why God chose to invade my emptiness. He invaded my emptiness in the Person of Jesus. Where once was the awful nothingness created by my own sin, there now is my Savior. His perfect life and death on my behalf destroyed the chasm that had surrounded me, isolated me, made me so alone.

Then he rose from death, just to assure me that my days of emptiness were over; to assure me that I would never be alone again. Ever.

And he has done the same for you.