Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.

Romans 15: 7

 

Who doesn’t want to be accepted? There are times when it seems like that is really the thing that many people desire most. The need and drive for acceptance can be greater than the need to be loved or than the drive to succeed, for our sense of acceptance can, in fact, define our own personal understanding of how much we areloved and how successful we have become. So, the things that we will do in order to gain this sort of status with others can go way beyond what is good or healthy and can cause a frightening degree of imbalance in life.

 

God recognizes this need in us, and He grants a much higher form of acceptance to anyone who is willing to set aside pride, fear, and the stubborn need to hang onto the past. By accepting the saving sacrifice of Christ and surrendering to His lordship, we are adopted into the family of God. Our God doesn’t set out any prequalificationsor have us take an entrance exam before He is willing to let us into His kingdom, and the Lord won’t require anyone to put on fancy or even clean clothes prior to letting them in to His table of grace. We are not even required to really understand who God is or what He is capable of doing first. You see, God desires to accept people, and He seeks out everyone on the earth with His message of hope, love, and grace in order to bring about the restoration of our lives to the glorious form that His creation design intended.

 

Christ also tells us that He wants us to recognize that our acceptance is absolute, unconditional, and complete. Then, He sends us into our world to meet the need for acceptance that other people have. As we truly open up to Christ and allow His Spirit the opportunity to transform us into people who view life and our world ever more as He does, we learn to see the God image bearing quality and nature of these other people. So, it is when we learn to give acceptance to others that we will begin to fully grasp and to completely enjoy the sort of unconditional acceptance that we have gained in God’s eyes through Christ.

 

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O LORD, you are my God;

I will exalt you; I will praise your name,

for you have done wonderful things,

plans formed of old, faithful and true.

Isaiah 25: 1

 

There are days when the prophet’s idea gets lost in all of the noise and the confusion of life. I admit that I do forget, if only for a few heartbeats, that I serve the true King, who is fully engaged and absolutely in charge of the world where I dwell. There is nothing that is beneath my Lord’s dignity to touch, and no aspect of my life is so insignificant that God does not care about it and for me through it. This is the nature of God. He loves His creation in ways that make the love of the best of fathers seem distant and neglectful. The Lord not only says that He would die for us, He literally suffered awfully and took on death in its fullest expression so that we would not need to endure its ultimate end. This is the sort of God that I do know, and this is the God who is Lord over my life in all ways and at all times.

 

One of the most remarkable things to me about this relationship with God is the fact that it was not of my devising or creation just as it was not the creation of any other person. God planned to remain close to people, and He devised the means for that to happen. He did all of this from the beginning of the existence of this world, and He did it with nothing except love as His motive. God loves this world that is the creative work of His hands with such passion and devotion that He gave Himself, in the form of the Son, over to all that is evil in this world and then He defeated evil and took its power over life and death away from it forever. In so doing, we were set free from the living prison that is sin, and we were sent into life with the capability and the capacity to engage our days with that same love as our motivation and with the wisdom of eternity as our guidance for the journey.

 

This is the nature of the plan that the Lord formed for the benefit of His people and for the salvation of His creation. His plan is truth embodied, and the Lord’s expressed will to carry it out is founded upon His faithful desire to reconcile all that is distanced or separated, all that is broken, in creation. This deep and unshakeable love, a love that the Lord pours out on me continually, is something that I should never stop remembering and recognizing in my mind and in my heart. It is the true song of my heart, and God’s love for me is the solid ground that my feet can count upon even when all else seems to be crumbling away and failing to support me. This is a love that demands righteousness of me when I would rather take an easier path through my day, for Christ does grant to me the freedom to be holy and set apart from the ways of this world in order for me to live in the full expression of God’s truth, grace, and mercy. So Lord, I desire to praise You with my words and to lift You up for all of the world to see in the way that I live my life today!

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2: 24

 

Jesus carried a great weight on His back and in His spirit when He was placed upon that cross of torture and death. When I consider the event itself, I am hit squarely in the face with the extraordinary harshness and brutality of what happened, but the human and physical aspects of that day are light and minor in comparison with the spiritual and emotional aspects of what transpired. In that moment, Jesus took with Him all of my sin, my disobedience to God, and all of the sin of every person who would ever walk upon this earth. Every simple unloving act, angry thought, deceit, violent action and contemplation, and all of the rest of the harsh and troubling history of existence that is outside of God’s perfect will and way was heaped upon Him and was there to torture Jesus in those final hours of life on this earth.

 

What is even more remarkable to me is that Christ did all of this knowing how brutally painful the specific act of sacrifice would be and also with knowledge of just how unworthy each of us, myself certainly included, would be. I do not deserve to receive the sacrificial love that Jesus pours out over me, but He loves me still. I have done nothing to earn my place at God’s table of grace; yet, Christ has granted me a seat there. My life has been lived out in a manner that is far short of God’s standard of righteousness, and still, Christ calls me into service to His name and in His Kingdom. None of this makes sense when it is considered in light of worldly and human standards of earned privilege and responsibility that is granted based upon merit. However, God does not desire to make sense in human terms or to operate by worldly standards. His view of life and of human worth come from outside of all that we know and experience here, and His concept of grace and of forgiveness transcend this world’s standards of worthiness as they overcome their limitations.

 

In this world, we are held back and constrained by our status in many ways, and worth is often granted based upon external factors and conditions. To God we are all extraordinarily beautiful and our worth is measured in terms of Christ’s presence within us, for in Christ, we are healed from all of the brokenness and the loss that sin has brought to dwell within our hearts, minds, and bodies. This is a form of healing that takes place on the inside of our beings and that influences and effects all that we are. Christ’s beautiful and blameless blood, which was poured out as the essential sacrifice for my sins and for yours, is the agent of healing for our souls. So, as we surrender to Christ, we are made spiritually alive, granted a home in God’s eternal kingdom, and given place and purpose in Christ’s here and now kingdom come on earth. Christ takes the weight of sin from us, and He sets us free to serve Him by loving the world as God does, for the eternal righteousness that we now possess is founded on love and is carried out in acts of grace, mercy, and justice.

What then shall we say of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8: 31

 

This is very confident verse. It is the sort of idea that can compel bold action and incite brave words. It is also an idea that has been seriously misused on many occasions, for much that is unjust and unrighteous has also been done while claiming the name of God as the impetus behind the deeds. I think that there is a basic line of determination to be observed in considering what is within the realm of serving God and what is done in service to self and to the world. In one sense it is as simple to discriminate as asking the question, “Is this something that Jesus would have done?” However, that question is never all that simple when placed into the complexity of the world as it is experienced. The other determinate that comes to mind involves the question, “Does this bring glory to God and serve the purposes of His Kingdom?”

 

These questions tend to sift out actions which are violent, oppressive, greedy, based in fear or anger, and other sorts of words and deeds that gain power and control for people instead of pointing toward Christ as the One who holds all power and who we trust to be in control of it all. So, I am led back to the question that Paul raises in the text. Who can be against us? Well, experience, both personal and that of people throughout history, says that many can oppose people who seek to serve Christ. In fact, this opposition is guaranteed in God’s Word, and the narrative of opposition is clearly one that runs throughout Jesus’ life.  We also live in a fallen and a broken world where nothing works as it was intended to in God’s creation design. Thus, people and things do work against us, bodies and minds fail, and the earth itself erupts and blows forth winds of destruction and chaos.

 

With all of this wreckage and destruction running about in our world and impacting our lives, how can the idea that none can oppose us in Christ still be true? We need to look at the setting of Paul’s words, for he is specifically speaking about our standing before God as people who have been made holy and blameless, justified, by the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us. This does not guarantee an easy path through life or that we will not be opposed in small and in great things along the way. We will encounter many difficult and trying situations and antagonistic people, and these are the times when it is most important to remember that in Christ no can stand against us. When we are acting out of love, seeking after justice, lifting up the oppressed and the weak, and doing other things that reflect the heart of God in our world, we may get bloodied and battered, but we will be held up by Christ and the truth of what we do for the glory of God in our world will be known by the Father as Christ does proclaim us to the heavens to be beloved daughters and sons of the one True King.

Through him (our Lord Jesus Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 2

 

It seems to me that if there is one thing that would make aa difference in the way that our world operates, that one thing might be the presence of more grace in our interactions and in our relationships. Now grace is an interesting concept, and it is a risky thing to engage in giving or receiving. Grace defies some of the rules of life that we all have learned, for it operates outside of the usual idea that all human interaction carries with it an inherent requirement that there be reciprocity. If I give something to you, then you are indebted to me until something of relatively equal worth is returned to me. This is the sort of platform upon which most of what we do and how we engage with each other is constructed. This give and take economy is where our world stands.

 

However, this is not where God is coming from in the way that He engages with His creation, in general, and with people, specifically.  In the beginning, He breathed life into us, and after we defied Him and went our own way into a universal journey of sin and its death, God came to us and provided Himself as our means of reentering the fullness of life. God asked for nothing in return as He poured out His grace upon our unworthy souls, and the only thing that Christ asked was that we be forgiven. Because of Christ and through God’s grace, anyone who turns to Him in repentance and submission is granted a new home in God’s Kingdom and a renewed purpose for this life in service to its King. Thus, in so living, we enter into our own hope of eternity wherein we will be covered in the glory of the Lord, but grace is still really for this life and it is about how we approach living today.

 

In Christ, we have received grace beyond our capacity or capability to measure it. There is no way to quantify or to compare this gift from God to anything else that we can perceive in this world. Yet, this grace that God has granted to us is intended to serve the purpose of setting us free from the bonds and the constraints that sin has imposed upon us. This is especially true when it comes to the way that we react to and interact with others. It seems to me that if we prepared out hearts to pour out grace upon people in all situations and under the wide range of circumstance in which we react to them in life, then this world would have a different tone and flavor to it. We might see others in a way that is more like Christ’s, and we just might find that other people start to understand some more of God’s gracious desire to redeem them. So, Lord, help me to stand today as a grace-soaked follower of Jesus and guide me to pour out that same infinite love upon others as an offering of grace given in worship to my King.

Are not five sparrows sold two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

Luke 12: 6

 

The details matter. Just ask an airplane pilot or a surgeon, and they will confirm this fact. The details of life matter to God, too. Some of these details are formed out of attitudes and from intentions; while others are defined by the way that people live out their days in pursuit of God or in attempted escape from Him. Still, without regard to what we do, where we go, or even what masters we serve, God knows it all and Christ seeks to enter into every aspect of each day of our existence with us. You see, the point that Jesus was making when He brought up sparrows was that they were truly the poor person’s sacrifice. They were so cheap as to be completely disposable; yet, to God, their Creator, each of those throw away birds was known and considered as a valuable part of this world’s beauty and balance of nature. They all had a purpose in God’s plan for this world.

 

So, if that was true about humble birds, how much more so does this same Creator God care about and fully comprehend each of the people that He has set out in this same world? We matter to God; so, we matter to Jesus Christ. God’s intent and desire for us is to be in close relationship with us; thus, Christ comes into our lives in order to redeem us from the separation of sin and to restore us to the glory of God that is our greatest and truest potential. We can fight against God’s intent and His desire. In fact, to various degrees most people do struggle with and against God for parts of our lives and throughout all of our days to some extent. However, these times of departure, rebellion, and disaffection with our Lord are futile. Those sparrows have more power to set their own direction and destiny than we do, for in the end, we all face the reality of our lives as our days on this earth end, and we go before Christ as the purveyor of truth and final justice.

 

There is no escaping this day of reckoning, and we should not be living in fear of it, either. God’s desire is that He would be greatly pleased to welcome each person on this earth home into His eternal presence. Jesus literally poured out His blood in order to buy each of us that outcome to the life that we have been given by God. This is a good day and this hour is the perfect time to consider my life in light of God’s view of those precious sparrows. Although the world may have viewed them as throw aways with no real usefulness or value, God sees the unique design and infinite depth of quality in every feather on their bodies. So, it is with each of us. God sees us as vitally important to Him, and He grants to each of us the talents, skills, and gifts that we will need in order to follow His will and to live out our days in service to our Godly calling. Our lives are filled with those details that matter so greatly to our Lord, and He will not overlook or forget anything that truly matters as we live out lives of service to Him.

Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

Joshua 24: 14

 

History matters. There is something to be gained by taking a good look at it from time to time, and that is exactly what Joshua has just been doing at this point in his narrative. He has gone over the highlights of all that God has done for himself and for the Israelite people. This is a long and complex tale of the Lord’s faithfulness to them that has remained true despite the fact that the people have frequently wandered away from His path and have far too often needed to be rescued from the consequences of those side trips and sinful excursions. So, Joshua is summing up the Lord’s engagement with the Israelites by directing them to respond to the Lord’s commitment to them by being singularly faithful to God and by following His will in all things. The Lord was to be the sole and total object of their worship and the recipient of their love and devotion.

 

Each of us has a history that is different from the one that shaped the lives of Joshua and the people of Israel. Yet, each of us does possess a story that tells of where we have been, the influences that have shaped us, and that also contains an element of God’s involvement with us and in shaping the way that life has gone. As I see it, God does actively seek out everyone, and He pursues each of us in order to demonstrate His unfailing love for us and to grant to us the opportunity to enter into the gift of His redemptive grace and perfect will for our lives. This is not all that different from what the Lord had done for the Israelites. In our stories the locations have different names, our Egypt of captivity might have another shape or form, and the gods that we have served will probably require other forms of sacrifice and worship than did those of the Amorites or that were found in other lands of the Middle East. Yet, almost everyone has gone through the stresses and the struggles of a journey through life with its times in the desert and its challenges of faith and loyalty to God.

 

Thus, the call to give our total respect, love, and devoted worship to the Lord is not very far off track for anyone today. This is something that we purpose to do, but it is also something that God provides the way and the means to accomplish. We have been granted an advantage over what the Israelites had received in that Christ has come and become the final sacrifice in payment for our sinfulness, our wandering. As we seek to enter into Joshua’s command to fear the Lord and to serve Him with our whole beings, in Christ we have the presence of the Spirit to empower and to guide the process of that commitment. We also possess God’s Word in its entirety to inform our thinking and to influence our actions. So, we are granted the gift of the presence of the Lord in our lives and with us in its journey in ways that are even greater and more powerful than the miraculous and wonderful ways that the Lord was with and among the Israelites during their travels. However, just as it was for them, it is also up to us to decide that we will listen to the voice of the Lord and commit all that we are and every aspect of our lives to Him and to serving His will for us.