Danger: The Common use of “God” in language.


This is an advertisement for a bracelet posted on the back page of this week’s Parade Magazine, collated in our Chicago Tribune. Though not a word is mentioned about the specifics for protection and strength, that is, military or otherwise, it is a sincere gesture that any parent can sympathize with. No doubt! But . . .

Here is the danger: Post-modern Christianity is not Christianity, because, the word “God” can mean anything BUT the Father who sent Jesus Christ to save sinners. Acid test (no not like the Rolling Stones): Any time you see or hear the word “God”, replace it with “Christ” – and see if those who use the word God would approve. If not, then they are not speaking of the only God that there is – for the only God there is – is the one who sent his Son as Savior of Sinners. Though fully God, he became fully Man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for claiming to be God, rose again from the dead and is coming back as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The danger is that just because you use the word God, you think that you and God are ok. Not! You are not ok unless you love his Son whom he sent (1 John 5:1, 9-12). Which means, never use the word God unless you believe that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully Man, to save you from your sins. Otherwise, you “take the Lord’s name in vain.”

For my son: “May Jesus Christ Always Protect You and Give You Strength!”

How do you know Jesus loves you?

“For the Bible tells me so” is for many, their child-like (not childish) response. And this is ok – for children. But let’s grow in our understanding. This question is not the same thing as asking, “Do you love Jesus?” Some people would answer no, they do not love Jesus, and yet believe that Jesus loves them. Why so? Because they say, “he died for me.”

Sticker-Shock: If you don’t love Jesus then you have no assurance that he loves you! That may hit you like a 7.0 on the Richter scale and rattle you a bit, but it’s true. I’ll show you from Jesus himself.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” – John 15:12-14

Let’s state something that, for many, comes as a surprise: The Bible does not record Jesus saying to anyone, “I love you.” For Jesus, love is something far deeper and goes beyond mere sentimental expression, and cannot be taken for granted. So let’s break down Jesus’ words to his disciples as he gave them on the night that he would die for them.

1. Jesus predicates the command that his disciples “love one another” (that is, all other lovers of Jesus Christ) based upon his love for them – “as I have loved you.”

The disciples will come to know soon the meaning of this. But for now, they have no idea that a cross for Jesus is just a few hours away. Still, they can accept this because sacrificing one’s own life for another is, in anyone’s mind, an act of love. Jesus speaks in the past tense, “as I have loved you,” because Scripture often declares things in the present that are yet in the future – It’s a done deal! Though Jesus has not died for them he can catapult his statement into the future over their heads as if he has already died for them. His impending death for his disciples is so sure that he can speak of it in the past tense.

2. Jesus invokes “friends” as the recipients of his love. But you are not a friend of Jesus if you do not keep his commandments. And if you do not keep his commandments, then you have no assurance that he loves you by dying for you. Clearly then, Jesus does not love everyone – he does not, in a real sense of the scope of scripture, love everyone equally. You cannot be a lover of the world without making yourself an enemy of God (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15). You cannot suppose to love what money can do for you and yet think that Jesus still knows you with a covenantal love (Matt. 6:24, 7:21-23). You cannot minimize your level of commitment to him and still expect Jesus’ level of commitment to you to remain all lovey-dovey (John 2:24, 6:66, 67).

In John’s letter, he says that you know Jesus loves you IF you confess that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 4:15, 16). In fact, if you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way of salvation with faith and repentance of sins, the wrath of God remains upon you (John 3:36). You cannot reject Christ and still say, “Jesus loves me.”

3. Jesus only loves those who will keep his commandments – Jesus will only “lay down his life” for those who prove their friendship to Jesus, for those who are his sheep (John 10:14-16). Notice then that Jesus is not saying, “I’ll be your friend if you keep my commandments.” It is not Jesus who needs to prove his love, his loyalty, his friendship, to his disciples. But rather it is they who need to prove their friendship to him. This is how they will know that Jesus loves them – “if” they keep his commandments. In other words, if you and I do not keep his commandments, proving our friendship to Jesus, then we have no assurance that Jesus loves us. Do you want assurance that Jesus loves you? Then love Jesus and all other lovers of Jesus as well (1 John 4:17-21).

The Word does teach that God loves sinners, in general (John 3:16), but with the same verse God will see to it that those who do not love his Son, whom he graciously sent, “will perish.” With a greater understanding, we sing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me to love Jesus – and that I will do.” I love him because he first loved me (1 John 4:19). But my knowledge that he loves me is based upon whether or not I “obey his commandments,” “keep his commandments” and “overcome the world” – which means to turn away from the sin that the world loves (1 John 5:1-5). Only those who have been born of God, first, are then capable of loving Jesus. And only those who have been “born of God” can have assurance that Jesus loves them (1 John 5:1-5, 13).

Q. How do you know that Jesus loves you?

A. Do you love Jesus?

Jesus’s New Year Resolution: To be the Same as He was Last Year

Unlike the cartoon, Jesus never needs to change. But like the cartoon, too often that is me. But to say that Jesus never changes can be both comforting and disconcerting. Comforting because you need Jesus to remain faithful to his promises; disconcerting because you feel that he let you down and you want him to step it up and do a little better this year. However you feel about Jesus’s character, scripture teaches that he is trustworthy, and that he does not improve as time goes by. Notice the context of that famous verse:

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them” (Hebrews 13:7-9).

What surrounds the affirmation of Jesus’s consistency is faithful teaching of God’s Word by pastors who shepherd the flock with a faith that is worth imitating, and the heart’s wayward leaning into various teachings, appetites of the flesh, that draw you away from Christ. Jesus cannot be re-packaged into a new mold to accommodate your new desires. If you are resolved this year to become a wealthier person, and you think that Jesus died to make you wealthier just because a Sunday morning preacher on TV said so, think again. The book of Hebrews shows Christians getting poorer and poorer by the minute for following Christ and they are commended for their faith and encouraged to keep it up because it’s going to get worse, not better (10:32-39, chapter 11, and 13:3).

But if you are resolved this year to trust Christ even more than you did last year, because you found him faithful and true to his promises to never leave you nor forsake you (13:5-6), then you will not be wasting your time and effort. Go for it! – “It is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace . . . and not by _____________.”

Three Things:

1. What would you put on that empty line that too often was your source of strength last year? Foods. Sports. More Money. Revenge/Justice. A Healthy Body. Marriage. Pregnancy. What was it that was more of a refuge for your heart than Jesus? For some of the Hebrews, they were mixing Jesus into their dietary rules and rituals to feel good about their walk with the Lord and their lives, abstaining from one kind of food and indulging in another. But “comfort food” does not comfort/benefit the heart. It only makes you gain more weight and then leaves you feeling guilty for indulging, or prideful for abstaining. This year, press forward to make Jesus more and more your place of strength and not food.

2. Surround yourself with a pastor(s), and other believers, whose lives have a consistency in God’s Word. Watch them, listen to them . . . then imitate their walk of faith as much as it applies to your life. And keep in mind, someone is watching you too.

3. Jesus promises that if you take comfort in the fact that he will be the same for you this coming year, you will not be disappointed. The sermon to the Hebrews is about a pilgrimage to “the city whose builder and maker is God.” It is about a life of faith that perseveres to the end, strengthened in the heart by a High Priest, Jesus, that will preserve the heart’s loyalty to Christ until the day comes that you are “made perfect”  in the presence of Christ (11:40). Jesus is as reliable as the day is long. And some days in 2014 are going to be very long. Jesus will stay with you at your side every second of the way. Don’t quit. Look to Jesus – the founder and perfecter of your faith. You’re almost there. You’re almost home. Compared to eternity, this whole year is just a few more strides around the bend and you’ll cross the finish line, having given your all. By grace, you can do this!

The Greatest Treasure That Ever Was Hung on a Tree

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5).

“. . . the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b).

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (John 12:27).

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37b).

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offering you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me . . . Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book . . . and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5-10).