Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

         1Timothy 3: 16

Jesus does present us with a great mystery. There is nothing else in all of human experience that is quite like Him. No person and no angelic being fulfills all that Jesus did or matches up with everything that He was. His presence on the earth brought about a special moment in history when all that had gone wrong with humanity’s occupation of this world was granted the blessing of redemption, and when the separation that our rebellion and sinfulness had caused was permanently repaired and bridged. Yet, all of this is mysterious, for grace of this magnitude, restoration of something so broken, and the love that caused God to go to this great a length to give His Son in sacrifice for each of us is all beyond the experience and the grasp of human reason. It is all the result of the character and the nature of God.

This nature of grace and redemption is something that God offers up to all people in every corner of this earth. There is no exclusivity and no exception to the offer of the gift of redemption and the eternal life that follows upon it. God’s gift is available and present for the entirety of this world’s inhabitants. This fact is also one of the great mysteries that comes out of the ways and the means in which God operates in the world, for I really do not have any idea of exactly how God goes about communicating His truth of salvation, the Gospel message of Christ, to all of the corners and to every one of the people on this earth. I do know that followers of Christ are commanded by Him to go into the world and to take that message there with us in order to bring the people that we encounter into discipleship with Jesus. But that does not fully accomplish the mission of taking Christ to all people in each place.

It is our calling and purpose to continue to flesh out people’s awareness and understanding of the mystery of Christ with people in all situations and context in which we find ourselves, and it is also God’s desire for us to seek out people who are not exposed to the Gospel so that Christ can be revealed to them through our love, concern, and care for them. God’s desire for the redemption of this world was devised in Heaven, actualized in the coming of Jesus into the world, made apparent and tangible through the life and the work of Jesus here, and brought to fruition on the cross. Then, in the vindication of resurrection from the dead, God’s intent to bring about total restoration of His creation was set into motion. Now we live in anticipation of that final return and the unending glory that it will bring about. So, in the interim, we can live in the reality of Christ’s presence in and with us, and we can go through our days proclaiming to the world the redemption that comes through Jesus Christ alone.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

Romans 8: 19

Did you realize that everything is waiting on you? Yes, institutions, politics, music, art, your neighbor, your family, the next person that you will meet in line at the grocery store, and everyone and all of the world around you is waiting. Most of them don’t have the slightest clue that they are caught up in this form of suspension, and I also bet that you haven’t given very much thought to this long list of appointments that you need to keep, either. I know that I hadn’t begun to add them into my calendar. Yet, they are there, and the schedule was devised by God, Himself, and He set it up back in the very beginning of time.

The person who God determined would make a difference in our world is you, and me. The Lord is, of course, fully aware of the enormous gap that exists in the way that this world functions and in the one that He designed for it, and Christ is the full and the final answer to that gap. However, Christ has already done His personal first work, and, although, He will do a second and a final work, this work is something that will come at a time that only God knows. Until then, Christ has tasked His followers with the right to pursue redemption, with the responsibility to seek it, and with the power to do His redemptive will. All of creation, that is, all of the world is waiting for the healing touch that can only be found through Christ, and guess what; you and I are the ones who have been given that role and the responsibility for reaching out to touch all around with God’s love.

This is a huge responsibility and an enormous task; yet, it is also one that God wants more than anything else for us to take on. He will grant all of the grace, wisdom, and strength that any of us need to do it. In order to do this well, we need to seek to live in the center of God’s righteousness, and we need to be open to the opportunities that will come to us as we go about the business of life. There are people all around us who want to be touched by the grace of God, and we are all involved in organizations, institutions, and aspects of our society that can be moved toward redemption by our influence. Put simply, there is a world waiting today for us to reveal Christ to it. Are we up to taking on the task?  

If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?

Acts 11: 17

Peter had just experienced one of those great moments of eye opening, blast of ice-cold water in the face truth revealed to him by God. He had been thinking that he had a responsibility to perform as a sort of filter on what would be acceptable to God and on how people could be made worthy of entering into the fellowship of people who believe in Jesus. Peter was wrong. He was absolutely and totally off track in his thinking, and his actions followed along after his thoughts. In this same light, it is interesting how much Peter was like me and so many other people that I know and have heard about.

It seems that we humans are very slow learners. Thus, it is a really good thing that the Lord is a very patient teacher. There is one and only one authorized and final judge who has authority over the affairs of people, and that judge is the resurrected One, Jesus the Christ. We are called upon by God to function as a continuation of Christ’s interaction with people here on this earth; for, people who know Jesus are the living Body of Christ in our world. The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can possess the heart, mind, and the power of Christ in order to fulfill His mission for us of bringing God’s loving grace, restorative peace, and eternal perspective to this sin ravaged world.

There is no person who is so far removed from God that His grace cannot save them. There is no place that the Lord does not want us to go to tell His truth, and nothing should stop us from seeking to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in all aspects of living on a daily basis. When I start to apply standards to others that will get in the way of my ability to speak truth to them with the love of Christ on my lips, I need to stop and consider how my Lord would have approached the same person. These are often situations where my actions are more important than any words that I can speak. In these situations and circumstances service, sacrifice, and simple love are frequently the vocabulary that Christ provides for me to use. At these times of engagement with people, as in all aspects of living as a follower of Christ, I need to seek the Spirit’s leading and ask that Christ open my heart and fill my mind with His loving attitude and gracious words of eternal hope and salvation’s message of redemptive grace.

For this is he who has spoken by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“’The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord;

Make his paths straight.’”

Matthew 3: 3

 

John’s message was straight forward and rather simple, for he called upon people to repent. He pointed them toward God and to the awful difference that existed between the way that they were living and the standard of righteous life that was set out for all people by the Lord. Interestingly, John went out into the wilds of the countryside to proclaim this message from God. He left the populated centers behind and found his audience out among the open spaces and the scattered villages, long-distance travelers, and assorted wanders that he encountered in those less hospitable locales. His first and primary appeal was to the people at large and not to the powerful or the prominent. John didn’t start out speaking with religious or with governmental leaders, and his message wasn’t directed at corrupt institutions or at their ungodly leaders.

 

John was called by God to go to people who were not so different from any of us, and he was directed to call upon us to turn to the God of our creation as our only valid hope for salvation from the ruinous path that we and that all of the rest of humanity had taken. Although John went out into the literal desert places to start to preach the Lord’s call to return to Him and to the truth of His word, he was restating the words that Isaiah had set out long before when he spoke about God’s promise of restoration and of peace with Him that was given then to the people of Israel and promised in extension to all of the world. In Isaiah we see the idea of wilderness as depicting the vast wasteland of human souls and all of the barriers that we have built up that separate us from God and from doing His righteous and redemptive work in our world. Isaiah speaks of mountains made flat and valleys being raised up, of other forms of impediment gone so that God’s glory is revealed to all of the world.

 

This is done through the lives of people just like us. God works in and through His people to bring this same message of hope through repentance to the world around us. We all reside in a barren landscape like that of Isaiah’s and john’s wilderness of the soul, and every one of us rubs shoulders on a daily basis with people who dwell in the harsh and bitter lands of that wild place. Our first calling is to personal repentance as we hear God’s voice and respond to His Gospel of righteous hope, peace, and love by turning our lives in full measure to Christ and to serving Him. Then we are to turn to our neighbors and to others that we encounter and that we seek out and reveal to them the glory of the Lord as it is made visible and tangible in our redeemed and transformed manner of thinking and living. Christ calls to each of us in our own wilderness, and then He sends us forth to do this crying out to a lost and a needy world. As Christ sends, so we must respond like john did with all of our mind, heart, and soul.

For He says,

“At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you”;

behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6: 2

 

Most of us experience times of questioning and wondering about the timing of certain decisions and about the best way to proceed through various situations that we encounter. God has equipped all of us with an inquisitive mind and with the ability to discern what is right so that we can make wise and informed decisions. However, there are also many times when we need to operate from a perspective of trust in our Lord and simply do what is right so that we demonstrate what His righteousness looks like in our world.

 

When we hit the point where our need for spiritual life exceeded our will to push on without God’s direct and personal involvement in our lives, Christ was there with a heart that listened to every urgent cry and that counted each of our tears as precious. At that point in our life journeys, Christ was ready to accept our surrender and to provide us with the purifying blood of His sacrifice so that we were made perfectly righteous in God’s eyes.

 

Now we are the ones who are called upon by the Lord to live as if that cleansing were our total reality. We are to behave as if everyone that we meet is in that same spiritually dead state, and we are to seek to live in a manner that makes every breath that we take an expression of the saving grace of Christ. Today is the day to live with your heart lifted up by your confidence in Christ’s grace and acceptance. This is the time when your life will matter for the eternity of another, for this can be the day of salvation for someone that you will meet.

 

 

Now, Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Acts 9: 1, 2

 

Just for the sake of clarity this man here named Saul is the same one that we know as Paul, the Apostle. The author of at least thirteen of the books of the New Testament, and the man whose writing brings depth of insight to our relationship with God that is beyond value. This same man who would willingly give everything he had in this life in order to serve Jesus is here seen preparing to go to the ends of the earth and to spare absolutely no effort in seeking to crush the life out of this new religious sect made up of people who were following the teaching of the recently crucified man named Jesus. If the transition, the transformation that takes place in Saul in a matter of hours is not proof of the unending grace and the all-searching love of Christ, then, nothing else could be sufficient to prove them.

 

The Lord went after the chief tormentor of His people, but He was not out to get revenge or to hold Saul accountable in the ways that most of us seek to do these things with the people that have harmed or hurt us. Saul was confronted with his sin, and he was forced to answer for what he had done; yet, the Lord wanted Saul to see that he was loved despite who he was and what he had done and that God had a place for him to be useful and valuable in both this world and in eternity. The Lord brings this same sort of unyielding, unrelenting, and total pursuit to bear in the lives of everyone. Additionally, Christ brings the potential for salvation from eternal death and for the redemption of the rest of this life so that it can be lived for the glory of God.

 

When I look at this picture of the extraordinary way that God seeks to bring all people under His grace and of the drive that He has to enter into a relationship with each of us, I am humbled by my own lack of the same qualities and the same drive to bring loving truth to others. The Lord desires that each of us would start to see the potential in others rather than focusing on their lostness. Christ calls on each of His people to follow His lead in bringing the truth of the gospel to everyone in our lives. Just as He does not back away from people because of how they have lived, what they have done, or how unlikely they might seem to be to respond to God, we can not judge either. The next person that I meet on life’s road deserves to meet and to know the love of Christ, and I am sent by my Lord into the world to share this love, the love that has already saved me.

 

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 4: 23

 

When James Weldon Johnson wrote the well known children’s and Sunday school song Dem Dry Bones, he was basing his words on that very strange and marvelous passage in Ezekiel 37 that discusses the Lord’s commitment to restoration for His people. In the song Weldon describes the connection between the skeletal parts of our bodies and how God is in total command over all the aspects of our physical life. In this Proverb, Solomon is describing another form of close connection that exists in our bodies; however, this is one where we are charged with the decision to control the input that we allow into these closely related and directly connected aspects of ourselves.

 

The heart is the center of the way that we view ourselves, other people, and our world in general, and it is directly influenced by everything that we allow into it through our mind. The material that we read, the pictures that we view, and the thoughts that we contemplate are all processed into our hearts through our minds. There really is no such thing as an innocent look or a throw away comment. Everything that we let into our minds and each thought that we form does have an influence on the way that our heart responds to God and on the way that we interact with the world around us. This is why there are so many statements in God’s Word about guarding ourselves from the input of the worldly information and images that surround us and that are so readily available to us in our daily lives.

 

When we choose to fill our minds with the living truth of God’s Word and we seek after the Holy Spirit’s guidance in how we should respond to the world around us, we are providing our hearts with the sort of sound and lasting input that creates an environment where we can function in our world as bearers of God’s image. Then, we become the hands and the feet of Christ in our communities. As our hearts are fed with Christ’s love, grace, and wisdom; we will become voices of loving truth who lead others to Christ, who is the continual source of the sort of sweet water that is the answer to the deepest thirsts in the souls of all people.