Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: loved by God

Cure for snakebite

Without a doubt, the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16.  If you grew up in the church, it was probably the first verse you memorized.  We also see it at various places in the culture – signs at sporting events, on the bottom inside edge of In-N-Out’s drink cup (one more reason to love that place!), on a Monster Jam truck, in songs on the radio, in comic strips, and even in Tim Tebow’s eye black.

John 3:16 is appropriately hailed as “the gospel in a nutshell” as it succinctly summarizes the Good News of Jesus and His mission here on Earth.  Even better, the verse is a direct quote from Jesus, and obviously, He would be the authority on the subject of the gospel.  As a refresher:

John 3:16
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

This quote from Jesus comes out of a discussion He had with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was trying to figure out exactly who Christ was.  Just before He says those famous John 3:16 words, in order to help Nicodemus understand what He was about to say, Jesus curiously references an incident from Israel’s past:

John 3:14-15
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

Jesus compares Himself to a snake?  How does that help?

As Paul Harvey would say – and now, the rest of the story:

When Moses was leading the Israelites away from Egypt toward the land God had promised to the nation, the people routinely became whiny and rebellious.  Each time this occurred, God intervened to bring them back to their senses, forcing the nation to recognize their only chance of survival was to look to God.  This time, God’s “attention grabbing messenger” were poisonous snakes:

Numbers 21:4-9
Then they set out from Mount Hor by way of the Red Sea to bypass the land of Edom, but the people became impatient because of the journey.  The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness?  There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!”  Then the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and they bit them so that many Israelites died.

The people then came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you.  Intercede with the Lord so that he will take the snakes away from us.”  And Moses interceded for the people.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake image and mount it on a pole.  When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.” So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole.  Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.

There is a lot of symbology here.  Bronze is always representative of judgement.  While the snake represented the present danger, it also harkened back to the Garden of Eden where Satan, in the form of a serpent, helped to usher sin into the world and separate people from God.

But of all the parts of this story Jesus could have referenced to help Nicodemus understand the good news of the gospel, Jesus said “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

What did the Israelites have to do to be immediately rescued from their snake-bitten death sentence?  Only to look at the bronze snake.  Not say a particular prayer.  Not promise to do better.  Not confess all their sins.  No requirement to make God the “Lord of their life” from here on out.  Only to look, because they believed God when He said that was the only thing for them to recover their earthly lives.

Jesus is telling Nicodemus – just like the Israelites looked to the bronze snake – everyone who looks to Him, everyone who believes in Him (no other conditions apply) will have eternal life!

Some may accuse me of “easy believism”, but they’ll have to take it up with Jesus first.

Why would God do such a thing?  Why would Jesus make something so incredibly valuable as eternal life available to everyone who (simply) believes in Him?

It’s the gospel in a nutshell:

John 3:16
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Unworthy or Unlovable?

May I ask you a deep, hard question?

When each of us take an honest, serious look at everything we’ve done in this life – the good and the bad – do we think we deserve God’s love? 

You and I both know that our “bad” far outweighs our “good”, especially if we admit to the sinful thoughts that we keep buried inside.  Even after we place our trust in Jesus for eternal life, we can still wrestle with feelings that based upon our past sins, we are not worthy of God’s love or that God shouldn’t love us.

Our response to our feelings is often shame-driven hiding.  We avoid God and other believers because “if they only knew the real me…they wouldn’t want me around anymore, they’d abandon me”.

However, this kind of thinking is flawed because it assumes that all our relationships must be created and maintained on our own merits or worthiness.  Rather than fooling ourselves and others (and trying to fool God) into thinking that we’re “good enough” to be around…we need to honestly recognize that we’re not worthy of love, nor do we really deserve it.

But that hard, honest truth doesn’t mean we’re unlovable.

David also recognized the discrepancy in his own life between what things he had done and God’s immense love.  Look and see how he was still able to approach God:

Psalm 25:4-7
Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths.
Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation;
I wait for You all day long.
Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love,
for they have existed from antiquity.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion;
in keeping with Your faithful love,
remember me because of Your goodness, Lord.

The Hebrew word translated as faithful love is hesed.  Hesed means to have a zeal (in a good sense) in love and kindness toward any one; it especially refers to the grace, favor, and mercy God shows toward people or that one person may show to another.

God’s compassion and faithful love have existed longer than David’s sin.  We are just a flutter and a flash in comparison to the infinity of God and His love.  David understands that for him to have any relationship with God, it must be based upon God’s qualities – and not on David’s actions.

So, is David unworthy of God’s love?  Absolutely.  He doesn’t deserve it at all.  And he knows it.

Then is David unlovable because he’s unworthy?  No.  He is loved by God, because of who God is.

It’s not our job to carry the responsibility of being the foundation of our relationship with God.  He established that already through Christ’s death on the cross.  Are we humble enough to accept this?

Are we humble enough to accept that we are unworthy, but that we are still loved?

Keep Pressing,
Ken

How God sees us

As Paul is wrapping up the transition point in his letter to the believers in Colossae, he makes an incredible statement that reveals how God views believers.  Previously, Paul urged them to kill off their old sinful habits because they

Colossians 3:9-10
…have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man

For the rest of the letter, Paul is going to describe what the life and practices of the new man will look like.  Reading ahead, you’ll find that Paul describes a life of freedom, love, and thankfulness.  However, the beginning of this new section says something we need to pause and consider.

Colossians 3:12
Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on…

These three descriptions – chosen, holy, and loved – come before Paul lists out the qualities that he wants the Colossian believers to put on and practice.  This means that God views us by these descriptions – regardless of how well we live life wearing the practices of the new man.

So what, exactly, do these descriptions mean?

Although some people assume that the word chosen means that Paul is talking about God choosing people out of the world to be believers, the context doesn’t allow for that interpretation.

Keep in mind that Paul wrote to those who already trusted Jesus as their Savior.  Also remember that in the previous sentence, Paul described the family of God, saying

Colossians 3:11
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

From this context, we see that all believers are chosen ones.  In fact, this entire section is only dealing with internal, family matters.  After Paul refers to the Colossian believers as chosen ones, the rest of sentence talks about the qualities of a maturing believer’s life.  Therefore, it is clear that God is choosing all believers to mature and become more Christ-like.  Not just some of us.  Not just the “good kids.”  God chooses all of us for maturity.

The word holy conveys the idea of being set apart for a special purpose.  A word that also embodies this idea is the word sacred.  Whenever we refer to something as sacred, we imply that it is in a category all to its own.  Sacred things are handled reverently and carefully…not because of weakness, but because holy and sacred things are considered to have a priceless value.  Notice that God sees us as holy, set apart, and He considers our relationship with Him to be a sacred one.

Lastly, Paul says that God sees us as loved.  We’ve heard that God loves us so many times that we can have trouble remembering the depth of His love.  Here, however, the tense of the verb loved helps to remind us.  Loved is a perfect passive verb in this sentence.  The perfect tense in Greek describes an action which is viewed as having been completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be repeated.  A passive voice means that the subject is the recipient of the verb’s action.  Taken together, when Paul says that we are loved by God – it means that we are the recipient of His love, and His love for us was firmly established a long time ago.

God sees us as chosen ones, holy and loved.  Think about that.  Smile about that.  No matter what happens today, or how well you handle it, those things do not change.

God sees you as His chosen one, holy and loved.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Completely rescued

Earlier this year, hundreds of fishermen were rescued from a life of slavery on Thai fishing boats.  These men had been trafficked and sold to work on these boats for up to 20 hours a day.  Some were kidnapped, others were lured there with promises of money or work prospects.  Yet instead of these lies, they were paid with beatings, torture, and sexual abuse. 

When the Indonesian government stepped in and rescued them, the world cheered.  Others had done for them what these fishermen could not do for themselves.  However, once they had been freed, they had nowhere to go and no one to help them cope with adjusting into being part of the real world.

There is a spiritual parallel to this story.  Christ has done for sinners what they are unable to do for themselves – He took the punishment for our sin, because we could not pay that debt.  Since the Father accepted Christ’s payment, those who trust in Christ for eternal life have been rescued from the domain of darkness.  Fortunately, though, we are not left to ourselves.  Our story doesn’t end there. 

As Paul began his letter to the Colossian believers, he reminded them that not only were they rescued from sin’s domain, but they were also rescued to a new domain.  Read the verses below and look for where believers have been transferred to:

Colossians 1:11-14
May you be strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.  He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

God the Father transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  While we were removed from sin’s jurisdiction, we also get a complete change of citizenship.  Only those in authority of a country can determine who gets to be a citizen; no other country’s declaration, decision, or complaint can affect a given citizenship.  As such, God can add anyone – from any background, region, or nationality – to the kingdom of the Son He loves.  Those He has chosen to transfer into Jesus’ kingdom are the ones who trust Jesus’ payment on the cross and trust Him for eternal life.

And it’s not like God has rescued us and then placed us into some other far-off area where life is just little better than it was before.  The Father doesn’t just send us on our merry way.  We aren’t left to figure out the question of “What do I do now?” or “How do I deal with the leftovers from my past?”  On the contrary, we have been transferred into the kingdom of the Son He loves.  Given how much the Father loves the Son, then the benefits of that relationship will spill over to those who identify with the Son! 

During His last night on earth, Jesus told His disciples:

John 16:27
For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.

We have redemption, we have the forgiveness of sins, but we are not left behind as orphans without a country.  Instead, we become part of the one Who is dearly loved by the Father!  We now have both a place and a purpose.  We have a new life as citizens in Jesus’ kingdom.

Never forget where we were rescued from, and always remember where we have been rescued to.

Keep Pressing,
Ken