Big Little Words

reading-bible“Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

The little book of Philemon is one of those books in that Bible that I thought had no value for me – I mean it only covers one page and is just Paul’s personal letter to a friend about a slave.  Not as inspiring as the Psalms, not instructive like his letters to Timothy, not even about Jesus like the Gospels.  Until I saw it through fresh eyes and the Holy Spirit.  Philemon is the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ in 25 verses. 

Philemon was the owner of a slave named Onesimus, who desperately desired freedom from his bondage.  He did the only thing he could do and ran away from his master, and apparently stole from him as well.  Through God’s grace he connects with Paul who is in prison and who leads Onesimus to salvation in Christ.  Now he wants to make things right with his master, but fears the repercussions of his actions.  Paul intercedes for him, reminding Philemon that his former slave is now his brother in Christ.  Paul asks for Onesimus’ release so that he can serve with Paul.

The gospel says that you and I were slaves to sin and death, and though we desperately desired to be free, our best attempts only made our situation worse.  We are fearful of God, condemned because of our sinful human nature.  Then through God’s grace, Jesus finds us and offers us true freedom.  Now we can come to God without fear because Jesus has made things right between us and intercedes before the Father for us.

The heart of this book is also the heart of the Gospel: “If [Onesimus] has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me . . . I will pay it back” (v. 18, 19).  You and I have wronged God and we owe Him a debt we can never repay.  Jesus took our sin-debt and paid it with His own precious blood.  If you are in Christ, you are no longer a slave to sin and death.  You are free by God’s grace.  You are a child of God and a Christ is your brother.  There is power in every word of the Word of God.  Power to set you free.

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Advent 2015 – Day 26 – Wondrous Love

Advent candles 4

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

There is a hymn that I think beautifully captures the purest essence of Christmas:

 

 

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul

To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.[1]

This hymn is the gospel message; the Christmas and Easter stories rolled into one glorious proclamation of wonderful love.  God saw mankind, enslaved to the curse of sin, and chose to bear the cost to set His creation free.  What kind of love would die that you and I might live? Jesus told us in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”  The amazing truth of His love is that we “were alienated from God and were [His] enemies” (Colossians 1:21).  And yet, Jesus lay down His life for us anyway.  This is greater love.

We were hopelessly lost in our sin, and we desperately needed a Savior.  But no savior could be found on earth, because only divine blood could cover the sins of all humanity.  But God is eternal, and He cannot die.  So the Son of God became a man in order to shed His divine blood from human veins.  Jesus the man was born to die.  This is divine love.

God loved you before you were ever born.  In fact, God loved you from the creation of the world.  How do I know this? Revelation 13:8 says “the Lamb (Jesus) was slain from the creation of the world.” Why was He slain?  To redeem His beloved creation.  To redeem you, because He loves you.  This is eternal love.

God loves you perfectly—but not because you are perfect.  You and I are far from perfect, but God’s love for us is never-failing, never-ending, flawless and more certain than the earth itself.  He says, “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfairly love for you will not be shaken” (Isaiah 54:10). This is perfect love.

This is the message of Christmas: that God’s heart would be so tender toward mankind that He would give His own Son to save us, even though we turn away from Him.  Only love could make such a sacrifice.

What wondrous love is this? It is a greater love. A divine love. An eternal love.  A perfect love.  This love is Jesus.

To all my dear Deeper Roots friends:  I wish you the merriest of Christmases and all God’s favor and blessing in the coming year.

[1] Words: American Folk Hymn; Music: William Walker’s Southern Harmony, 1835; arr. William J. Reynolds, 1920-2009.