The Point of Knowing God

Many people talk about “knowing God”, but what’s the point?

“I have made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” -John 17:26

The Church is filled with broken people trying to figure things out, trying to know God. This is a wonderful thing, but we must realize that there is a purpose in knowing God that is bigger than ourselves. Jesus does not make the Father known to the disciples simply so that they will have some personal realization, but that they may be transformed in the way that they act towards each other (and also the world, but that’s a different passage).

Jesus speaks of the love “with which You [the Father] have loved me”. Think of how this love was shown at His baptism in Luke 3:21-22. Before Jesus ever preached a message or performed a miracle, God the Father declared over Him, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” (v.22)

The love the Father gives is based not on performance, but position. It is a love that is offered freely, not based on the merit of the receiver’s actions or accomplishments, but on their acceptance in Christ. To love others like this is to give love regardless of whether or not we feel they deserve it.

This is both the key and purpose of knowing God.

Jesus’ prayer is that the more we know God,the more we would love each other as He loves us, and the more we love like Him, the more we will know Him, too.

Love and the World

Does God ever seem like a killjoy?

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” -1 John 2:15

It is common in our day to speak of “love” in terms of attraction and affection.  Thus, we fall in and out of love with people and things, ideas and experiences, and the focus is so often simply on what we feel.

That is not the love John is talking about here.  If it were, we would be in conflict with Genesis, which says that God made ALL things good, with all of the Psalms that exult in the beauty and wonder of the world God made, and with Ecclesiastes, which declares that “everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)

In the Bible and in life, love -true love- is less about attraction and affection and more about commitment and devotion.  To enjoy someone’s company and be drawn to them is not the same as making them a focus and foundation of your life.  The same is true of the world and its things.

God is NOT a killjoy.  He wants us to take joy in the life He has given us!  There is no sin in seeking enjoyment in the God-approved pleasures of this life.  However, don’t let them become your greatest commitment.  Rather, let the depths of your heart always find their fill in Christ, for when that love is in us, we are truly free and will have joy that can never be shaken.

So Prove to Be

Fruit matters, and whether or not it’s real makes all the difference.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” -John 15:8

In the middle of a first-century vineyard Jesus does what all great communicators do, He takes an image familiar to His listeners and uses it as an analogy to make His point.

Here, of course, the analogy is the relationship between the vine, the branches and the fruit they produce.

Here is what Jesus does NOT say.  “Bear fruit, and so become my disciples.”  Of course He doesn’t say that.  A branch must first be connected to the vine and then, if it’s truly connected, it will bear fruit.

Trying to produce fruit with no connection to the vine is just silly.  You can try to tape or sew or glue fruit on a branch, but time will show that no matter how nice it looked in the beginning, it wasn’t real fruit at all.

No, Jesus says, “bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”  Fruit is the result of discipleship, not the cause.

Of course, the other point must be understood as well.  No matter how close a branch looks like it is to the vine, it is the fruit alone that demonstrates a true connection.  A life that says the right religious things and checks all the boxes on the minimum requirements is not the life of a disciple.

It is the life of an imposter.

True disciples produce the fruit of love and good deeds out of the overflow of the love and goodness poured into them from above.

May it be so with us.

 

Jesus’ Tears

Jesus doesn’t cry much, but when He does, what does it mean?

“And when He drew near and saw [Jerusalem], He wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.'” -Luke 19:41-42

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To Hear Him

When Jesus speaks, what is He like?

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him.” -Luke 15:1

How striking that the down-and-outs and outcasts of society were coming to Jesus not just because of the miracles (like many), but to “hear Him”.  Something in His way and His words drew them in for more.

I must imagine that it was love.

Most people aren’t looking for high-minded philosophy or theological answers.  They just want to have a sense of purpose and direction for their lives.  They just want to know that things will be okay.

Jesus doesn’t shrink from telling the truth, but people are drawn to Him because He always offers it in love.

Do we?

Prove it

If you say you follow this Jesus, prove it.

Mark’s Gospel demonstrates that along with the preaching of Good News, Jesus proved the power of the Kingdom as a witness to the authority of the messenger and the authenticity of the message.  The crowds often focused too much on the miracles and too little on what they represented, but that did not cause Jesus to stop doing them.

What, then, will be the sign of the authenticity of our message of Good News?  What will be the validator of the authority by which we preach?  What will prove that the Jesus we speak of really matters at all?

Jesus’ miracles weren’t sideshow tricks for entertainment, but tangible expressions of love and care for the whole person.  So may it be with us.  This is how we prove the Good News:

LOVE PEOPLE CONCRETELY.

Justice and Love: Psalm 7

“I will thank the Lord because He is just; I will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” -Psalm 7:17

Meditating on this passage recently, here are a few thoughts that came to mind.

– Love without choice is not love, but slavery. Choice without consequences is not choice, but an illusion. Consequences out of scope with their cause, are either pointless gestures or miscarriages of justice.
– Love is not love without the potential for hate. Forgiveness is meaningless without the possibility of damnation. They each of them exist as a function of their opposites.
– God’s love brings comfort and rest. His justice brings security and gratefulness that His love actually means something.
– Because of this, I say God’s justice is just as lovely as His love.

Love and Darkness

Here is what is said…

This is Love – not that we chose God, but that He chose us, not because of our accomplishments or our virtue, not because of how hard we tried or how good we looked in our efforts, not because of our worthiness or suitability, but because of His grace.

This is Love – that He chose us in the midst of our failure; that He chose me in the middle of my sin, in the depths of my helplessness, in the darkest hour of my falling and failing, and chose that as what and who He wanted to redeem.

This is Love – that no matter how I sin, fail, cause pain to myself and others, and no matter how I succeed, triumph, or live rightly to try and make God proud of or pleased with me, His love remains the same.

Now here is the question… Do I really believe this?  Do I really believe that God’s love for me remains the same, even when I trample it?

Read moreLove and Darkness

Prayer for 09/14/10

Lord, thank you for overwhelming me with the power and beauty of your presence.

You move me to tears and silence when your Spirit touches mine.
The closer you approach across the vastness of your eternity, the smaller I feel.
I tremble in spirit at the thought of your majesty, but my heart is giddy to think of your gracious love.

You are my song and my guiding star. You, O Jesus, are indeed my light and my salvation, and the joy you share with me is like none other I’ve ever known.

Thank you, Adonai, Abba.