Monday, October 22, 2012

Eternal Life

What is eternal life?

Jesus said, "And this is eternal life, that they know me, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

Eternal life is knowing Jesus Christ.  This does not begin once we physically die but rather when the Spirit opens our eyes to the reality of Jesus Christ's saving work on the cross.  Eternal life begins when spiritual life begins. 

What is the point of eternal life?

The point is knowing Christ more and more as we grow by his grace knowing that an eternal inheritance with him is awaiting.  This eternal inheritance is when we will be unhindered by sin to worship him for his great majesty and great love.  For now we long to have Jesus at the center of our lives because he alone is worthy of our praise, honor and glory but when we are ushered into glory this great longing will be satisfied eternally. 

That's it?  Eternal life is nothing more then worshipping Jesus forever?  Sound boring?  If that sounds boring then maybe you haven't come to know Jesus.  You may also have a misconception of heaven.  Maybe you want the gold and the pearls and the crystals.  Maybe you just don't want to go to hell.  I totally understand both of those realities.  But the main point of a life with no end is to know the God who loves with no end.  The good news is you can know this God right now because of Christ coming and mediating on our behalf.  Repent and trust in Christ for your salvation.  Know his love for sinners like you and me.  Once you taste his love the things of this world will grow strangely dim because your soul will finally be filled completely.  Gold, pearls and crystals will pale in comparison to having Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

God's Grace (Part 2)

I know I said I would post on Tuesday part 2 of God's grace but life happens with work and a family so here is part 2 this wonderful Wednesday. 

Monday I posted on God's grace seen at the cross.  I focused in on Luke 23:39-43 which is the scene with the two criminals being crucified on the right and left of Christ.  You can read part 1 by clicking here.  Today my focus is on Christ's response to the criminal asking Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom.  I believe Christ's answer to the criminal is why so many people truly hate grace.

In the previous verses we saw the grace of God change this criminal from a God-mocker to a God-fearer.  God's grace had opened his eyes to the reality of Christ.  Because of grace he now understood his sin and Christ's perfection and Lordship.  This man had been changed.  But the most astonishing point of the passage comes in verse 42 when this lifetime criminal turns to Jesus and says, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Simple enough from the surface but it is good to stop for a moment and really think about what is taking place in this moment.

First, this man was being executed because of crimes committed.  He is described in the Bible as a robber, criminal and insurrectionist.  Chances are this man had terrorized people his entire life.  He wasn't some rookie who got caught once but this man was an experienced criminal.  There is a good shot he had even murdered in his lifetime.  He may have been part of a clan with Barabbas who was the one release in order for Jesus to be crucified.  This man was what people in "normal society" would call a low life.  He was exactly where he deserved to be.  Most of us would applaud and approve and potentially cheer his execution.  But now he is pleading with Jesus to let him into his kingdom?  How does that make you feel?

It is easy to have this ho-hum response but if we were to really examine our hearts at this moment I think we would be conflicted.  Here he is moments from death asking for eternal joy with the God of the universe.  Isn't the reason hell exist for people like this guy?  No way would a good God allow this man into heaven.  You might even wonder if your mansion might be next to his.  I know as I thought this through I was a tad conflicted because I know what Jesus says in response to the criminal.  Did this man deserve to go to heaven after the life he lived in the world? 

...No...but now we can grasp God's grace to a greater degree.  It wasn't and isn't just this man who didn't deserve to inherit eternity with God in bliss and joy but all of us.  As soon as we think we deserve an eternity with God more then this criminal or anyone else we have jumped into the category of thinking we deserve grace.  And thinking we deserve grace is moronic: oxy moronic.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing it is a gift of God not a result of works so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Grace upon grace,
JRL

Monday, October 15, 2012

God's Grace (Part 1)

I recently had to privilege of studying Luke 23:39-43 which is the scene of the criminals and their encounter with Christ on the cross.  This passage is blaring of God's grace for sinners like you and me.  We read in Matthew and Mark both criminals were mocking Christ:

"Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.  Those who were crucified with him also reviled" (Mark 15:32)

But when we read Luke's account he starts verse 39 saying, "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him."  This should make us wonder, "What happened to the other criminal?"  Both were once reviling but now only one.  As we continue on in the text we quickly discover the other thief had been changed by the grace of God.  One criminal is still mocking Christ with a concern only for his temporary condition.  He is still screaming at Jesus, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"  This criminal only wants releif from his suffering.  He wants to escape his physical death but what he fails to see is something worse is ahead. 

But the other criminal has had a heart change.  He proceeds to rebuke his former cohort saying, "Do you not fear God"?  This is a great first question to ask an unbeliever.  The fear of the Lord is holy reverence and a healthy dread for the One who Created us.  Proverbs tells us many things about the fear of the Lord.  It tells us that "the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" (Prov. 14:27) and no doubt this criminal has found life in his death.  The hymnwriter nailed it when he wrote, "The dying theif rejoice to see that fountain in his day."  He found life because of God's grace being poured out to him through the blood of Christ.

This criminal proceeds to say, "Since you are under the same sentence of condemnation.  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds."  It has been rightly said that a fear of the Lord will produce a proper knowledge of sin.  This criminal understands the what is due to him because of his sin.  I don't believe this is only in the physical sense but he also understands his spiritual condition.  He understands that he has earned death because of his sin. 

But he also notices their is One who has not sinned.  He says, "I am a sinner getting what I deserve; 'but this man has done nothing wrong'."  The eyes of his heart see Jesus as the perfect Lamb slain for sins.  He has gone from a God mocker to a God fearer simply because of grace.  But his next statement is shocking.  "And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom'."  The King James Version reads, "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."  No doubt this man now saw Jesus as the God-man.  He calls him Lord and acknowledges that he has a kingdom.

Kingdom?

We must remember Jesus was not sitting on a throne with a robe, crown and sceptor.  Jesus was a beaten and bloody man hanging on a cross dying a criminals death.  What would make this man think Jesus has a kingdom?  Nothing but the sheer grace of God.  God's grace is all over this passage.  Tomorrow I want to look at why people hate grace by looking at the response of Christ.

Grace upon grace,
JRL