For Those Who Love Him

holding hand

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, NKJV

The very essence of our faith is the deeply rooted understanding that what we now see and experience is not the end, but is only the beginning.  We do not, as so much of the world, walk as though blindfolded, hoping that we will not walk into a wall, hoping that tomorrow will be better than today. This is because, as those who have been redeemed and bought by Jesus Christ through His blood, our tomorrow rests firmly in the hand of God.

Paul said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, that the things which God has prepared for us are unseen by the human eye and unheard of by the human ear.  The world calls these things a fairytale, mere mythological prophecies that belong in an ancient Greek play. This is so, as Jesus said to His disciples, “because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11, emphasis added). As a result, because they have nothing to look forward to, the people of this world are ensnared by temporal pleasures and materialism – chasing after the wind in hopes that they might grasp some momentary peace and happiness. They are blind.

But notice who does see: the disciple of Christ, the one who “loves Him.” The people who belong to the true and Living God know that we have been rescued from the endless search for hope and joy that many millions today are searching for.  This is because we ourselves have been rescued from our own lost condition.  For years, we spent our “past lifetime” trying to become our own god, to lift ourselves up upon the throne of our universe, to control our final destination on the great ship of life. We repulsed the thought of a God who ruled over all – so instead of submitting to His Lordship, we jumped overboard and swam away searching for our own private island that we could rule over.

But then, at just the right time, God came looking for us. Our search for autonomy killed us, for we drowned on the way to our private island.  And yet, though we were dead and lifeless at the bottom of the sea, God’s Spirit came to us, lifted us up, and breathed new life into us.  At that moment, our eyes opened. The Jesus who we once rejected became beautiful, precious, and much to be desired.  The affections we once had centered on ourselves were mortally wounded, and we were no longer imprisoned to the insatiable hankering to rule and reign. We were free. Yes, we were given new hearts for God, and for the first time.

I write to remind you, O Christian, that you don’t have to search as those who have no hope, for there is infinitely greater joy ahead.  We so often forget the endless blessings of our great salvation, and we turn back to try and taste the darkness we once lived in. But the Spirit of the Living God yearns to draw you into “the deep things of God,” the place where every spiritual blessing in Christ is sweeter than the momentary joys that fizzle with the hour.

God loves to bless those who love Him – there is great peace and joy in the blessed presence of Christ that is reserved only for you, if you will again come to Him. So I challenge you: “Get your minds ready for action…set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Through him you now trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:13, 21 NET).

Advertisements

What Are You Looking For?

mansearching“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:4-5

Jesus once declared to Thomas, His disciple, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). This statement has been a source of offense for many people. For anyone to declare that outside of Himself, mankind would be lost forever is both a bold and cutting claim. If this claim was a lie, then Jesus would have been nothing more than a crazy man. However, if this claim was true, then all the peoples of the earth are forced to make a decision: look to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, or reject Him and be lost forever. Jesus was telling Thomas that he could search the world over and never find life outside of Himself. He could experiment, he could indulge, he could even run and hide. But, apart from “the Life,” Thomas’ life would end in a desert of futility.

I expect the Gospel to be foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18). Those who are perishing will find Jesus to be nothing more than a bloody martyr on a Roman cross. And until the Father draws them with that effectual call, Jesus will always be foolish to them. But, what about those many today in the Christian church that have seen Jesus as who He claimed to be, but then still run off and search for life elsewhere? As a pastor, I have seen this time and time again. Is the darkness so intriguing? Does the world’s false image of “life” draw so strongly that Jesus becomes merely a religious symbol? Why do so many who have declared Jesus to be their God turn away to set up graven images of self-pleasure, hoped-for success, and personal comfort?

My thought is, the god of this age is good at what he does (2 Corinthians 4:4). See, Satan cannot hide the Light of Life. But he certainly can blind the eyes of man. We humans are so fickle and so dissatisfied with awesomeness, that we continue our search even after we have found that only truly Awesome Delight. Satan indeed works to blind and deceive – and he works especially hard to incite dissatisfaction in the hearts of believers.

I remember a time where, I too, was once drawn away by Satan’s lie. There was a time in my young life where Christ, the only truly awesome, awe-filled delight, began to look mediocre. My enemy had deceived me into thinking that the darkness was more fulfilling, and I groped about in the darkness for a time. But then, the Way began to shine into my darkness. This light did not burst in like an explosion, but more as if through a pinhole. Little by little, the hole became larger and more glorious, and before I realized it, my eyes were no longer blinded by the darkness, but by the light. I was so surrounded by the brightness of that light, that I dropped to my knees and confessed my time of futile searching to Jesus.

That was close to ten years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I thank God for His powerful, sovereign arm in the midst of my deception-riddled rebellion. I believe He allowed me to see how ugly this world is- how dark, how unsatisfying, so that today, I can exhort those who have settled for worthlessness: What are you looking for, friend? “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God… lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Hebrews 3:12-14)!

Have you nurtured a heart of unbelief within you? Has the darkness become so appealing that you no longer know who Christ is? I exhort you today then, brethren, return to the only Life and partake of Him! Do not allow the deceitfulness of sin to blind you from sharing in the Light of Life. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). You will not find life, nor fullness, nor peace, nor joy in any other place other than Jesus – the LIFE who is the light of men.

We Have a Living Hope

Living Hope

The other day, I began reading the book of 1 Peter again. The books of 1 and 2 Peter have always been intriguing to me, perhaps because they were written by a man who denied Jesus three times. To me, they are a testimony of the work of grace and mercy extended by a loving God to a wretched man. Peter had learned what grace was and he found peace with God. Perhaps that’s why Peter could start his letter with the phrase: “Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (verse 2). He then begins his letter’s content in verse 3. Let me read it to you:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Just to muse a bit with you, Peter tells us in this verse that because of God’s “abundant mercy,” the new birth has wrought for us a “living hope,” secured for us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from tomb. To me, and without scholarly exegesis of the text, there is something to be said about this phrase. It is almost as if Peter is saying that because of Christ’s death and rising to life again, because of His effectual work – plainly, because of the Gospel, we are brought forth from one particular state to a new, better state, which Peter calls “a living hope.” The Gospel, though, doesn’t merely carry us from one place to the next, or change our status from one to the other, but it actually makes a new person, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

To dig deeper, there is a way that something can be alive, but still outwardly appear weakened, sickly, even dying. In other words, there is no quality of life. I am reminded of the elderly man or woman, confined to the nursing home chair. They are immobile, weak, and must be fed and cared for by someone else – they are totally at the mercy of another. There is essentially “no hope” for this person. Each day is a reminder of an imminent death, all seems hopeless, and what remains of life is grim. The end of this earthly life can be a very saddening and fearful time, and perhaps especially so to one in a nursing home.

But, for the Christian, Peter is not describing one who is alive, yet dying. For he speaks of one who is alive and has hope. It is a living hope – it is, in fact, an encouraging, even exciting assurance because hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). Hope that has been granted by God’s abundant mercy and secured through Christ’s resurrection cannot disappoint, because if Christ is risen and lives, then we too shall live! Indeed, we too are at the mercy of another, just as the nursing home resident. But, rather than depending on another to sustain us until we die, we are depending on Another to sustain us until we live. For those of us who have been granted this “abundant mercy” look forward to “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for [us](1 Peter 1:4). It is this mercy that has saved us, and it is this mercy which shall preserve us until we throw off this earthly tent we live in. We look toward the moment when we receive our glorious bodies – when we are “further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life(2 Corinthians 5:4 ESV).

All this to say, if Christ was raised from the dead, so have we been and yet will be! This is our surety and expectation because since Christ lives, how can we be dead? How can I, who has the Spirit of Jesus living within me, be dead? If I am burdened with this life, depressed, upset, or disappointed, it is because I have forgotten (or have yet to grasp) what this mercy-granted, Christ’s resurrection-secured hope really is. I am reminded of the old hymn “Blessed Assurance,” written in 1873 by the blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby. Ms. Crosby understood what this living hope all about. She enjoyed a “blessed assurance” that was implanted in her very soul because she grasped the glorious Gospel! Let us recall some of those poignant words:

“Blessed assurance! Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood!”

Christian, you have been purchased, washed clean, given new life, and made an heir with Christ and by Christ! This is a blessed assurance! This is a living hope! O, that we boldly petition the throne of grace until we begin to glimpse the depths of this living hope! And when this is assurance is graciously realized through divine aid, we will sing aloud with Ms. Crosby:

“This is MY story, this is MY song, praising my Savior all the day long!”

We have been begotten again to a living hope, and we are just about to lay hold of this precious inheritance along with our Beloved Friend, Savior, Brother, and Lord. Let this blessed assurance take you from this day to that day.