Is the hope for Jesus’ return close to your heart and mind as much as it was on those first century disciples who also believed that Jesus would return in their lifetime?
Living in this world, however, we also recognise the power of distraction that can so easily take away our focus from Jesus. The devil would love for Jesus’ followers to love Him less, to become lukewarm, to get distracted, or to get overly busy. After all, the devil is an expert in beguilement and deception. But, when we’re close to God, in intimate covenant relationship with Jesus, when Jesus is the focus of our waking thoughts, prayers, all our actions (spontaneous or premeditated) then there’s little threat for any serious distraction.
One of the hardest things for us to do is to openly proclaim our love for Jesus. It may have not been in our culture. It might not be in our “personality”. Excuses in that area are often aplenty. And that, in some ways, is a sad reflection. Thankfully, a faithful few have responded to their calling and continued growing in Christ despite perhaps the “lots of head knowledge” and little “love of Jesus” in their previous “non-church” experience. On that note we can be glad that the times are changing within our church fellowships and in our own personal lives; after all, Jesus is the good shepherd and we must not deny Him that honour. We can be glad that more people are coming to a knowledgeable faith in how Jesus works in our lives: that He knocks on the door of our world, but doesn’t push in. It is for us to reach for the handle and only when we swing open the door, does Jesus intimately come into our lives. And that is important to understand. We are called into a responsive relationship with Jesus – a covenant relationship that is bound by both expectation and responsibility. We’re discussing a relationship that becomes a deep, intimate and accountable friendship.
So although God the Father calls us, and Jesus knocks on the door of our lives, Jesus will not push in where He’s not invited. He did not perform any miracles in the towns where unbelief existed when He ministered in Judea some 2000 years ago. And so it is with us. God has given us freewill. We are to choose life. We are to bring our lives completely in surrender to Jesus, and only we can volunteer this. We are not puppets. The detail of our life’s journey is not completely foreordained. To Abraham, God said, “Now I know…” only after Abraham’s faith was displayed by his actions, tested to the very last moment. The future is changed and mountains are moved only by the fervent, effective prayers of the righteous.
For all the mistakes we’ve made in our lives, we can never blame God for them. For if we believed that our entire lives were preordained and that we had no choice in anything, then we could also easily pass the blame onto God for our sins. Not so. Jesus paid for my sins and your sins. God has entitled us to free will, beginning with the very choices he gave in the Garden of Eden. It is liberating to understand that we do have choice – a grace that stems from a God-ordained freedom – from which we don’t have to be clueless. We can ask for wisdom. Wisdom is something God eagerly awaits to grant to those who ask Him – so that we may be equipped to make better choices that reflect God’s righteousness.
“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”, is a scripture that seems to indicate that while we may dream and have aspirations, it is only when we willingly submit to God that these dreams begin to have any substance to them. That’s why we go to God in prayer multiple times each day. We invite God into our lives, in every passing moment, and in every desired outcome.
Today, in this age, our lives are being “tested”. God will never tempt anyone, but He will test us. This testing happens over a lifetime. The seed of the Holy Spirit is planted at baptism with the laying on of hands. As the years go by, the Holy Spirit grows and flows mightily, working with us and through us. When it comes to covenant relationship, baptism is the touchstone of all relationship standards, because it brings us into marriage communion with Jesus Christ Himself – sealed with the Holy Spirit. And to truly enter into the depths of that communion and covenantal relationship that will transcend and transform us into the very image of the Son of God, we, then, desire nothing that this world can offer, with our eyes exclusively fixed on Jesus and His Kingdom. Every other relationship, every other offer, and every temptation pales into insignificance. Even our immediate families, spouses, parents and children on this earth must come secondary to the relationship we have in Christ Jesus.
That is why as a collective community of believers, we have been given different gifts but the same Spirit. In union with Christ, in love with Jesus, His word, His faith, His Majesty, His righteousness, His will and purpose, His love and attention, His awe and Glory – to which nothing compares.
Thus, we find ourselves talking about Jesus all the time. He’s the head of every table. He is the Lord of our hearts. We openly confess our love for Him. His wisdom and presence adorns every grey hair – which the Father numbers. He is in our inner thoughts. His word, and will, moulds our days and shapes our lives. We approach His throne of Grace in all areas of our lives and our family’s lives, especially, for example, when it comes to matters of finding Godly spouses for our children, and praying for their spouses decades before they meet finally meet. We ask God for His help and guidance in all areas of our lives. Because of that covenantal relationship, we want Him from that moment onward to shape our destiny, and this is only achieved by willingly surrendering our will.
And each day, He wants us to innovatively look out and beyond to find ways that glorify Him. He wants us to be creative, to trust Him. He wants to bless the work of our hands. He wants us to live the surrendered life to Him. Many times God will answer our prayers when we’re totally out of any other options, when we’re “hemmed in by the Red Sea”, or watching the “setting sun” on some experience, or when we’ve struggled with a trial sometimes for decades – God wants us to confess our love for Him, our faith for Him, our trust in Him.
Those in the world who choose a different path become deluded and blinded, of course, by the god of this world. Those who have left the faith, who broke covenant with Jesus, made various choices – in a similar way perhaps to Judas. Did God cause them to leave the faith? No. God forbid! Their life’s path was formed by lots of little choices, day by day, moment by moment. Freedom and consequence walk hand-in-hand. The hosts of heaven cheer when one sinner repents. In one sense, we are indeed the centre of the universe’s attention, for what God is doing and how he is doing it – through us, inviting us into more than just a partnership, but inferring on us as joint heirs with Christ Jesus.
As the love of God grows in our lives, and we increasingly become the new creation, the new person in Christ, we become creatures of love. We’ll then tell all those around us how much we love them. Our actions will “speak” of love. That’s our testimony. Our children will “feel” loved as well as be loved. Our motives will be understood through the lens of love. Discipline will not be harsh, but loving, with kindly eye-to-eye contact. And people around us will feel and experience that love (and ultimately attribute it to God’s glory). We will truly be Jesus’ disciples when we love each other. Love has to grow for it to thrive. It has to come from God’s Holy Spirit. It has to be in everything we say. Even the truth must be spoken in love! And because of love we will listen intently to those in our families, our church and those in our communities. And those who oppose us, we will also kindly entreat them. We will also be wise to the devil’s ruses, the attractive distractions that can if momentarily confuse us – should we, God forbid, take our eyes off from Jesus. The fruits of our love in Christ, when tested, will unite families, and always bring people together who are also in Christ.
May our focus at this time, perhaps more than ever before, be open and transparent before Christ firstly, and then to each other. May we be accounted worthy, worthy to stand before Jesus. May there be no straw or chaff in our lives, but only grain – good fruit. May we be people of the Book, and use it wisely. Too many have manipulated the scriptures to suit their choices. May we be people quick to bless, quick to forgive, easy to entreat, eager to please. May the righteousness of God in us speak louder than the “rights” of this world’s life. May our lives, in every detail, reflect the union we have with and in Jesus Christ.