A Life of Hope

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

What does it mean to really live?  Is life just existence, just taking up space on planet earth – or is there something more to life than that?  What is the difference between “life” and “living?” On this fifth day of Advent we are going to look at a Life of Hope, tomorrow we will expand our focus to the Hope of Eternal Life.

God meant for our lives to have real meaning and purpose.  No one ever set a life goal to just exist. Our lives matter – and that was God’s intention.  So how, then, can we move into this purposeful and meaningful life?

First, we must come to the One who promises life.  We must come to Jesus Christ, the One who died to give us life.   You may be reading this and thinking, “My life has no great purpose,” or even “I have made such a mess of my life, there is nothing left for me.”  God says differently.  There is no life – no person – that God cannot touch and change.  Here is a wonderful word of hope for you and me: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17, emphasis added)!  If you have received Jesus Christ, you have been given a new life.  And if you have not – there is no better time than now.  Pray this simple prayer to begin a new life in Christ: “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, and I need Jesus Christ to save me and cleanse me.  I receive Jesus by faith, I receive this new life by faith.  I am Your child God, lead me in this new life.”  God promises new life to all who will come to Christ.

With that new life comes the abundant, or “full” life, as our key verse says.  Jesus was not talking about an abundance of things, but of purpose and meaning – namely an abundant, fruitful life.  Jesus declared it just prior to His arrest saying, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  This is to my Father’s glory.” (John 15:16, 8).  Paul reminds us that  “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).  Now, mind you, this is not to say that Christ saved us because of the good work we do, nor did He save us merely to do good work.  This good work is the calling of God on our lives, the purpose for which we are here on earth.  There is much hope in knowing that God has chosen and called you to serve Him by serving others, and that He receives your good works as a fruitful offering.

If you have received the new life Christ offers, you are a child of God.  And if you are a child of God you have a calling that will result in fruitfulness.  Because of this helpless little baby in the manger, we have hope for a new and meaningful life here on earth.  That is real hope for a real life indeed.

My God and Father, I pray that You will receive my “work produced by faith, labor prompted by love, and endurance inspired by hope in my Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thess. 1:3)” as an offering to Your glory.  Amen

Please Forgive Me (Part 9 in the Apostle’s Creed series)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”  Luke 23:34

 

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell, The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand

of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins;

 

I believe in the forgiveness of sins.  I am grateful to the depth of my soul for the forgiveness of my sins.  Let’s take a closer look at this part of the Apostle’s Creed.

Why do we need forgiveness?  Because we are creatures given to sin.  The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, committed what is known as the “original sin,” and mankind has born the burden of that sin ever since.  But surely, we don’t consider ourselves as “sinful.”  We are making “life-style choices,” living as the “free people” we are.  This is a new age, and the concept of “sin” is terribly outdated.  Our society has tried to deny the truth of sin, to call it less than what it is- a personal offense against God’s holiness.  It is the true story of the history of man.  Paul expressed it like this: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23). The penalty of sin?  “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

Well sure, we are all going to die, right?  But this is an eternal death that is best described in Revelation 21:8: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murder, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This will be the second death.” I tried to find a nicer way to say it, but the Bible is very clear about the result of man’s sin.  If I water it down, I am not being faithful to the Word of God.  It’s not popular or “politically correct,” but hear Paul’s words: “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8).

I hear you saying, “This is so depressing, I thought this was going to be about forgiveness.”  And it is, but we cannot understand and appreciate forgiveness until we understand the truth about sin.  When we are faced with the darkness of our sin, the glory of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ shines like stars in the night sky.

Paul recognized the blackness of his sin in Romans 7:24 when he cried out: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?” It is a question that has only one answer, and Paul followed his lament with a blessed proclamation: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s sin problem.  He gave His perfect life as the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin.  He bought our forgiveness with His blood.  There was nothing you or I could do to gain forgiveness. Jesus did everything necessary for us to be forgiven and made right with God.  Romans 4:25 says “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  To be justified means that we are declared innocent in God’s sight – “Just-if-I’d never sinned”  Paul goes on with this thought in Romans 5:9 – “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”   Do you see now why we needed a Savior? Forgiveness is possible only through Jesus Christ.

If Jesus did it all, what, then, is our part?  Peter tells us the most precious truth you and I will ever hear, “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43).  Simply believe.   Believe that you are a sinner, helpless against God’s wrath.  Believe that Jesus Christ paid your sin-debt and His sacrifice on the cross is all you need to be forgiven and made right with God.  1 John 1:9 makes this promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Sweet, glorious forgiveness from the merciful and loving heart of God, made possible by the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.  It can be yours right now, by praying this simple prayer:

God, I know that I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself.  Thank you for sending Jesus to take away all my sins. I accept Your gift of forgiveness today.  Thank you for giving me a new life in Christ.  Amen.