The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor; He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned and renewed sight to the blind, to release those who have been crushed, to proclaim a year of the favor of the LORD Luke 4:18-19 (cf Isaiah 61:1-2)
Just days before writing this, an RV exploded in Nashville Tennessee. On Christmas Day. Thank God nobody was killed in the explosion (though, I did hear more recently that the man who caused the explosion did perish, but that does not make things any better). But this event is just one more link in the seemingly never-ending chain of bad news we get day in and day out.
From the aftermath of the Presidential election, the Covid death toll, to shootings all around the country – a seven-year-old girl just having been killed in Atlanta on December 27 – when does it all end? Where is the relief from this? We can not help being affected in some negative way hearing all of these things (I hope you are negatively affected, anyway). We need to hear some good news.
Where is the hope? Where is the relief? What do we have to look forward to if this life is just death and destruction, one after another?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:3
As much as I have written about the evils of this world, I do not dwell on them. Or at least I try not to. Unfortunately, there just seems to be so much more negative to focus on lately. That can take its toll and drag you down into that pit of negativity and crush your soul. It takes focus and effort to maintain hope and optimism.
Fortunately, we have been given a reason to hope, a reason to believe – something to be optimistic about. This is the salvation that is in Jesus Christ.
Since the fall of man (Genesis 3), mankind has been digging itself a grave. Even after the flood (Genesis 7-8) man wasted no time in screwing up again. Sin had become such a part of man until it became human nature. From then until now has been a long time for the indwelling nature of sin to burrow its way in and stake its claim.
But the LORD God, our Father had this planned from the start. And He has given us the means and tools to undo this sin that will bring us certain death. He gave us good news.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. -John 3:16
Sin part of us now. It is in us. It crouches at the door waiting for you to do wrong (Genesis 4). And eventually we all mess up. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), “and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). What good news is this? To know that though we are unworthy of God’s grace because of our sin, He still offers it to us through Jesus Christ. Sinn is part of us now. It is in us. It crouches at the door waiting for you to do wrong (Genesis 4). And eventually we all mess up. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), “and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24). What good news is this? To know that though we are unworthy of God’s grace because of our sin, He still offers it to us through Jesus Christ.
As for myself, I struggle with multiple idols, lust, anger, selfishness, and probably many other things that I am not aware of (please, no need to email or call me to tell me what they are). My desire to be accepted by the world led me to my low point, which ultimately led me to Christ. God could have let me keep digging that hole for myself. But God is faithful (1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 John 1:9). He knew when I was just about at rock bottom and He brought me up out of it.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is not other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:12
As soon as I said I should give up and follow Jesus, I felt the Holy Spirit enter me. Call me crazy, but you can not tell me something supernatural did not happen. Never have I had such an experience. “I have seen the light!” (borrowed from John Belushi, The Blues Brothers, 1980). God had heard me and rescued me at that moment.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. -Ephesians 1:7
After all the idiotic, immoral, worldly resources I turned to to try to “improve” myself, God still watched over me. As far as I had drifted from Him, He still took me back, like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31). “I once was lost but now am found,” as the song says. Though I am yet far from perfect, God has set me on the right path toward His kingdom.
Now the best part. Though “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) there is hope for us all. And it is in Jesus Christ. To give up your sinful ways, to repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ sincerely, you can have salvation, too. You can have that redemption. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Admit you are a sinner. Admit you can not change on our own or save yourself, and turn to Jesus. Apart from Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15:5). We are headed for certain death without Him, because of our sin. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquity. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. -Isaiah 53:5
Jesus came to show us the way. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He became a man to live with man, to show how to live a life of perfect obedience to God. And knowing we can not do that, He took the punishment we deserve from God for our disobedience and unfaithfulness. He took the beatings, the mocking, the crucifixion, the separation from God. He “gave up his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
For by grace you were saved through faith, and this is not of your doing, it is a gift from God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. -Ephesians 2:8
God did not have to do what He has done for us. We could all be doomed and in a sense we are. We are all destined for physical death (depending on when the last day is), but after the resurrection, those whose names are written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12) will be awarded eternal life with God the Father and Jesus Christ.
Just because we are now in His good graces is, by no means any reason to slack, however. There is still life to be lived. There is still work to be done. With God’s good gift of grace and mercy, we are now His representatives, and are called upon to will and work his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). But as a true follower of Jesus Christ, it shall be our good pleasure to do the work of God while we are here.
This is not an easy task. We can not coast by on God’s work. Do you think it was easy for Jesus to give Himself up to the cross? Why would he pray to the Father to let the “cup pass” from Him (Matthew 26:39) and sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44) in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion? Have you ever been in that much distress? I certainly have not.
“Blessed are you who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil falsely against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” -Matthew 5:11-12
Jesus did not promise an easy life in Him. He challenged John and Jacob if they could “drink from the same cup” as He would (Mark 10:38). He said, “foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20).
You could lose everything. You could suffer a great deal. But as Paul said, “I have suffered the loss of all things and regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). In contrast, he said, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
In Matthew 19, Jesus was approached by a rich young man who asked Him how he could have eternal life. Jesus first challenged him if he had kept the commandments. The man said he ahead. Jesus then instructed to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. This led the man to go away sad because he was rich and loved his possessions. The disciples asked who, then, could be saved. Jesus answered them, “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (19-26).
Jesus went on to say, “everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times more and he will obtain eternal life” (19:29).
We must no fear loss. We shall gladly accept what we may be called to give up for our inheritance with Jesus Christ, as members of the Kingdom of God.
What no eye has seen, nor hear heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.
-1 Corinthians 2:9
Everything on Earth has balance- an equal and opposite reaction, according to Newton. Up is down, black is white, fast is slow. But life with God in His kingdom has no equal. Nothing compares to what will be at the end when we are called up to glory with Jesus.
“I call Heaven and Earth against you, to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring my live. -Deuteronomy 30:19
Everything has a choice. Moses gave Israel the choice of blessing or curse, life or death. Jesus give us the same choice. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30).
So are you on Jesus’ side? Are you going to listen to the good news presented before you, that if you repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus, you will have eternal life with Him? The invitation is always open, but it does have an expiration date. And we do not know when that is… As much of an ultimatum as that sounds like, it is not. It is the best news you can ever get. That right now you can be saved from your sins in Jesus Christ. With all the bad news flying around this world today, we need good news. It does not get any better than this.
***Dear LORD, I thank you that you presented me this choice and by your grace I chose you. I pray for all who read this, all who may not know you, that they will see the right choice in Jesus Christ and give their lives to Him. I pray that all people, LORD, all over, will come to know you and see the errors of the wrong choices they have made.
I thank you for the good news of your salvation in Jesus Christ, that through His glorious sacrifice, we can be saved and have eternal life with you. I pray, LORD, that this good news will spread farther and wider throughout the world, that all would learn it and give their lives to Jesus.
Help me, LORD, however you may will, that I can help spread this good news of your kingdom, to help it grow, and that your name will be known and worshiped and praised. And that you would be glorified, always. I pray this, LORD, in Jesus’ name. Amen. ***