God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 1: 9

 

We don’t always stay true to our commitments or promises, but God does. People are too easily influenced by the attractive enticements of our world; yet, our Lord remains good to His word to redeem us and save us for all of eternity. There exists a stark difference in the way that we humans function and the way that God does; still, Christ works unceasingly to bring us closer to His righteous image as He removes our sinfulness and replaces it with His glory. This is one of the most powerfully significant aspects of what it means to be a follower of Christ. We are redeemed from sin’s death, set free from its slavery, and we are made new, day by day, by the renewing presence of the Spirit and in the counsel and instruction of God’s Living Word.

 

In His own crazy and often unexplainable manner, God wants to be with us people. He can associate with anyone and anything that He chooses, but He so chooses us. This does not really make much sense, but God does not need to explain Himself to me. His desire for relationship with me and with you is so great and runs so deep that He gave all in order to accomplish it. Now, He also pursues us unceasingly in order to hold onto our wandering hearts. Despite the insult of our own weakness and often too prevalent sinfulness, Christ is faithful to redeem us from the disaster that we often make of life, and He is firmly committed to present us before the Father as His own redeemed daughters and sons when we face the final judgement.

 

The sort of connection that God wants to have with us is much deeper and far richer than any relationship that we can imagine on earth. The Lord gives to us a love that is perfect and boundless, grace that overcomes all of our sin, comfort that is more powerful than all of our loss and pain, and peace that penetrates to the depths of the soul. These are some of the gifts from eternity that Christ provides to us as we journey through life in relationship with Him. Jesus does ask that we respond to Him, that we say yes to His call to repentance and to enter into this fellowship of faith that is His love gift to us. Yet, even in offering such an unimaginably great gift as is Christ’s one of redemption and eternal life, the Lord places no conditions upon us, no preconditions on our acceptance by Him, and requires nothing of us except that we surrender to His will. Then we are in deep and lasting fellowship with God, the Lord of the Universe.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.

1 John 4: 11

 

John has already made it very clear that God does love people. He loves us to the point of ultimate and total sacrifice for our sakes. This love is without boundaries and goes beyond all human understanding. Christ loves us even when we demonstrate no prospect of returning that love, and He demands nothing from us in return for that love. Yet, if we are willing to turn away from our former lives and surrender our current and future ones to Him, Christ pours out grace, forgiveness, and healing upon our hearts and our minds. This gift of love is so powerful and complete that it transforms the people who receive it into totally new beings.

 

So, if I am a recipient of Christ’s gift, then it is reasonable to expect that I will think, act, and be different. This difference is measured in relation to my life before I knew Christ. However, it is also considered in comparison to the world in general and even in contrast to how I lived yesterday. The transformative work that Christ does in His people is on going and it is progressive. That is not to say that there will not be good days and ones that are not so good. Most of us even experience times of great challenge and apparent defeat as we go through life as followers of Christ. Yet, He remains victorious over all of the forces of evil in this world and beyond, and Christ continues to work in our hearts and our minds through all of the days of our lives.

 

Christ’s victory is based upon love, and His work in the lives of His followers is also grounded upon and infused with that same love which comes from God. As God loves us and Christ imparts that love to us, we are called upon by God to be people who love others. Although we are also led by God to be a righteous and a holy people, we are to follow the example of Jesus in all of life. Thus, we are mandated by Christ to embrace care for others, justice for the weak and the disadvantaged; we are to grant hospitality and acceptance to the foreigner, and to seek to heal the relational hurts that occur in the course of life. This love that models Christ is sacrificial. It seeks nothing for itself, but it gives everything in order to bring people into close proximity to God, and in so doing it presents to them the love that saves the world.

 

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9: 11

 

In our world thanksgiving should come easily. We have wealth, convenience, excellent medical care, well-established governments to provide order, and resources of many types to call upon when needed. We live lives that are continually blessed and satisfying. However, this last state of being is seldom the one where our hearts and our minds reside. For the other side of this coin that we know as life is the one where there is much pain, great sorrow, and times that are hard to withstand. There is illness, deceit, oppression, violence, joblessness, homelessness, rejection, and shame. Wherever he has been able Satan has taken his giant mallet of Godlessness and crushed the beauty out of Creation. There are broken and damaged people, institutions, and places all around us.

 

Still, God’s Word declares that He is offering much to us. Through the rubble there comes a beam of light that promises that we are not forgotten. A voice reaches out to a dying soul and hope is sparked so that Christ’s gift of grace can begin to restore this being to life. People set aside comfort and concern for their own safety so that their hands can start to clear the debris that is crushing the air out of the lungs of people who are trapped under sin’s weight. Christ did not walk down the calm streets of His world and stay safely inside of the walls of His own house. He went out into His community and reached out to touch the hearts of people with God’s promise of healing and restoration. God grants to each of His people the ability and the opportunity to do these same things.

 

We don’t need health, wealth, comfort, a permanent home, societal or even familial acceptance, or position and power in order to accept Christ’s gift of Himself. God is not a careful screener of the people that He accepts into His presence. He is also not discriminating when it comes to lavishing His generosity upon us. Jesus tells us, “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” All of us experience times of labor when the burden is too heavy to continue to bear. He wants to lift the load enough so that we can continue on. Christ joins us in facing the brokenness of our own lives and in our world. He provides an outlook on life that leads to a thankful appreciation of God’s love for us, and Christ takes us into our world with acts of loving service that are great blessings to God.