Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Christian love

We live in a society in which love and lust are often regarded to be more or less synonymous.  Love is often defined primarily in terms of a feeling or desire for someone or something.  In reaction to this I have sometimes found myself trying to define love more in terms of actions than feelings.  I would argue that it is something that acts in others interests rather than one’s own.  John 3:16 provides one of a number of biblical examples of such love.  ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.’   I have been tempted to go further and argue that this on its own is the sum and substance of love – that it is a sacrificial giving to others rather than any feeling or desire.

1 Corinthians 13 however gives short shrift to such a reductionistic view of christian love.  ‘If I give all I possess to feed the poor but do not have love it profits me nothing.’  If it’s possible to give in a sacrificial way without love then it is clear that sacrificial giving as a definition of love is rather inadequate.

Christian love it seems is much more than just a desire or feeling but it is also more than sacrificial service.  When it says in Genesis that Jacob loved Rachael it seems that he desired her and found her very attractive.  However the text also says that ‘because’ he loved her he didn’t mind giving up 14 years of his life working for her father to obtain her hand in marriage.  Love desires its object and willingly sacrifices for it.

In a sense the relationship between love and sacrifice is a bit like the relationship between faith and works.  A person can have works without faith but they can’t have a living faith without works (James 2).  Likewise a person may act sacrificially without love but they cannot love without acting sacrificially.

So what should we do if we’re having trouble loving someone, say a family member or someone at work or church?  Once upon a time I would have said we should serve the other person no matter how we feel and in time our feelings will come into line.  But unless our hearts are changing as we repent and look to Jesus our feelings may not change.  We love, not by a sheer act of the will against our feelings, but in response to God’s love for us in Jesus.  As we meditate on what Christ has done for us while we were still his enemies and we ask for him to change us, it becomes harder and harder to maintain bitter feelings towards others.

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Suffering – A Personal Story CCEF

God’s merciful justice

Scripture presents the justice of God as something which is not only good but beautiful.  This may seem strange, especially if we think of justice purely in terms of punishment for sin.  God’s justice implies judgement and God’s judgement is something to fear.  However when we consider that these judgements are also deeply concerned with protecting and caring for weak and wounded people they also stir up other more desirable emotions.

In the book of Isaiah there is a beautiful promise describing Christ’s tender attitude towards the poor and needy where it says,

He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish”
(Isaiah 42:2-3a)

At a glance this verse might easily be mistaken purely as a portrait of Christ’s love and mercy.  The true beauty of this portrait however lies not so much in what it reveals  of Christ’s love but in what it tells us of his justice.  The words immediately preceding this frequently quoted verse are a promise that “He will bring forth justice to the nations.”   And just what does bringing forth justice  mean?  It means bringing a quiet reassuring voice to an anxious soul.  It means dealing ever so gently with people that are bruised and easy to break.  It means preserving those whose lives have  become like the flickering flame of a candle that would be easily snuffed out by one false movement.

This tender portrayal of justice is then immediately followed by the words,

He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.
(Isaiah 42:3b-4)

That sounds good to me.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.

We want a miracle but God wants a meeting

Mark 5:25-34

Sufferers of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, dysautonomia and many other chronic illnesses will no doubt readily identify with the woman in Mark’s gospel who was sick for twelve years.  She is said to have ‘endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all but rather grew worse.’  Furthermore, if those suffering from such illnesses believe in God, they will most probably have turned to him many times asking that he would heal them and give them relief from their sufferings.  They would no doubt love to be able to do as this woman did, simply reaching out and touching Jesus’ cloak, and finding that in that moment twelve long years of pain and humiliation were over.   She found a physician that cost nothing and healed her entirely.

What is particularly  interesting however about this story is that Jesus does not allow her to come to him for healing alone.  As D.A. Carson puts it, ‘she wants a miracle but Jesus wants a meeting.’  When she reaches out in the crowd to touch him, Jesus turns around immediately saying, ‘Who touched me?’  No doubt he knew who had touched him but he asked the question because he desired that this woman would not only know his power but also his love.  He wanted her not simply to know healing but to know him.  And so they meet face to face and I wonder as the years passed, what she came to value most – being free of her illness or meeting her Lord face to face and receiving his blessing.

When I first became unwell two years ago I begged God to heal me.  There was little I wanted from him more than this.  Of course, I would still like to be healed and God in his mercy may yet grant this but  I am slowly learning that God wants something much more wonderful than my healing – he wants me.  We may want a miracle but God wants a meeting.  He wants us to know him and love him and trust him.  Any healing from chronic illness will only ever be temporary in this life, but to know Christ, to meet with him, is eternal life.

It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming

I heard a great sermon by David Jones the other day and he quoted some black American preacher who preached a sermon with the refrain ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.’  I found it helpful to consider how hopeless the disciples felt on the day Christ died and how little they realised that in just a few days Christ would rise.  It struck me as a good description of what our lives are often like here.  We die with Christ and often things seem hopeless….but ‘It’s Friday, it’s only Friday and Sunday’s coming.’

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by his Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
Ooooh
It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit

It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place

But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

S. M. Lockbridge

Crying out to God – Suffering Well

It’s not uncommon for Christians who are under severe trials to find themselves experiencing doubts and concerns about their relationship to God.  They cry out to him for help but it may seem like he is far away.  They may be bewildered by God’s dealings with them.  This spiritual depression that they experience may further alarm them and others around them.  It is thought perhaps that as Christians they should have peace and joy at all times and hence the absence of such peace is alarming.  However things are not always as they seem.  A Christian may lack a sense of peace and assurance of God’s love, yet the fact that they continue to look to him and  cry out to him in their pain is a good sign that it is well with their soul.   In Luke 18 the elect are described as those who ‘cry to him day and night.’  Isaiah 50 speaks of people who ‘fear the Lord’ yet ‘walk in darkness and have no light.’   Furthermore we ought to remember that Jesus himself was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53).  In the garden of Gethsemane he was not calm and peaceful but deeply troubled.  As we are conformed to his likeness we ought not to be surprised if we find ourselves  also deeply troubled.  What matters most at such times is not how we feel but where we look.

Joni Erickson Tada has been a quadriplegic ever since she was a teenager.  Speaking at a conference not long ago she said, ‘don’t think that after all these years I’ve worked out how to handle quadriplegia.   I still can’t handle quadriplegia.  I wake up every morning, so tired and I cry out to God saying, “God, I can’t do quadriplegia.  Help me.”  She said, ‘I wake up knowing my girlfriend is about to come through the door and help me out of bed and I just can’t summon up the strength to greet her with a smile, so I cry out to God and only then do I find that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’  You see it is not that our trials become easier as we grow in godliness, it is that we learn to cry out more to God and depend more upon his strength.  This is what it means to suffer well.

Chumbawamba and real hope

‘I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down.’ So goes the well known line of Chumbawamba’s most popular hit. For many people however it would be a truer description of their lives to say, ‘I get up but get knocked down again, you’re never going to keep me up.’

In my own life I’ve found that the extent to which this latter description applies to me is very much connected to where I place my hopes. While I’ve been unwell these past two years, I’ve often made the mistake of putting my hope in getting better. I would have a couple good days and think I was possibly on the mend. This would be followed by further deterioration, which inevitably meant that my spirit went up and down like a yo-yo. As long as my hope is placed in a return to health I find that I am very apt to become anxious or depressed.

On the other hand when I focus on Christ and the certainty of his resurrection and the fact that I am united to him by faith I can tolerate all kinds of circumstances far more comfortably. The only way to really be a person who gets knocked down but gets up again is to make sure that I put my hope in a place where it can never fail. If my hope is in my health it must fail, because I am mortal. If it is in money, that must fail because I can’t take it with me when I die. If it’s in the things I do or accomplish then that must fail because eventually I won’t be able to do those things anymore. There is only one hope that will not ultimately fail and that is hope in the resurrected living Christ. He is the only living hope. All other hopes are dying – they get up but get knocked down again and again and again and eventually fail to rise.

Now I don’t want to give the impression that when I place my hope in Christ I never experience pain or deep discouragements. If anything scripture teaches that Christians get knocked down more than most. They are united to Christ and therefore they suffer with him, but… they will also rise with him! They get knocked down but by God’s grace, they get up again and again and again and eventually they will rise to eternal life.