Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14: 6

 

God’s Word has many way-finding signs within it. There are references to the coming Messiah throughout the Old Testament, and indications of how Jesus fulfills the prophesy that God gave to us from the beginning of time are a regular aspect of the gospel narrative of His life on earth. God did not want His desire for relationship with us to be unclear, and He did not leave His method for obtaining that relationship obscure, either. Jesus provides that singular path that leads to the forgiveness of the sin that each of us is born into as it is by and through Christ alone that our sin is forgiven. His blood paid our debt to God, and His resurrection from the death that was required in order to shed that sacrificial blood brings all who believe in Him into standing before the Father in which we are granted full status as sons and daughters of the Most High. In this new status, we are truly and totally redeemed from the death that sin imposed upon us.

 

The fact that we have been redeemed from sin and out of its imprisonment for our hearts, minds, and souls is a wonderful fact. Yet, it is not the end of the road as far as what it means to be a new creature in Christ. The life that we will live after we accept Christ is where the real adventure begins. Although Christ presents us as holy and clean before God, we still live in the shadow of all that has gone before in our lives. We each have issues and challenges that we must face and come to grips with as we travel through life. The difference for us after we surrender our lives to Christ is that we have the presence of the holy Spirit in us to both prompt our thoughts and actions and to guide us into understanding what it means to live righteously in all aspects of our days. In Christ, we are no longer traveling alone through the decisions and the interactions that we are required to make each day. We do it all in the company of the wisdom of the ages and with the strength of creation as our support and our shield of protection.

 

Although the idea that Jesus set forth in stating that He was the way is rather simple, for He says that we can chose Christ and know God, or we can deny Christ and not know the Father. However, all that ensues after we choose to follow Christ is much greater and far more expansive that we often consider. The way to the Father is also a way out of our old life and into a new one that requires surrender of our old self in every way and that also gives us a new purpose and calling to serve the Lord with the totality of our being for the remainder of our days. Although Heaven is ours in the acceptance of Christ, so is living out God’s will as a citizen of His Kingdom on earth. The way that Jesus promises to us is clear and well-marked, and the journey forward is one along which the Spirit and God’s Word provide guidance, encouragement, and strength. Still, we are active participants in all that comes along, for we are called upon by Christ to set aside the old life that we have lived, to surrender to the Lord’s will, and to seek out God’s truth as the benchmark for all that we think, say, and do.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6: 19, 20

 

There was a time when people relied upon a human High Priest to go for us before God and to offer up our repentance and requests for forgiveness. Although these men were well chosen and were generally reliable, they were human, and they were far from perfect themselves. Additionally, they were just like the rest of us in that they too were in need of repentance for their sins and the forgiveness of that sinfulness that only God could give. But things have changed, and we no longer have a need for these human priests to go to God for us. Jesus turned that entire system upside down, or perhaps more accurately, He set it all right again.

 

God created this world and us people to be in a direct and very easily obtained regular, even daily relationship with Him. He desires to be able to walk with us and to talk with us about all of the aspects of life and of living in a manner that is as easy and direct as is a conversation with my closest friend. The distance and the formality of the Jewish temple order was the result of a form of separation of humanity from God that came about due to our sinful pulling away from Him. Yet God did not leave things like that. He sent Jesus into our world, and in His sinless perfection Christ broke through and tore down the curtain of separation that had been constructed. Christ brings us into direct contact with God and into complete communication and total communion with our Lord. This was not a temporary fix, either, for things will never go back to the way that they were in those days that came between our rebellion and Jesus’ coming.

 

In Christ, we can be confident of our place and our standing before God. He does go before us into the presence of the Most High, and Christ speaks in defense of our new status as redeemed citizens of the kingdom of God. Through the work of Christ, we are granted a certain place, that sure anchor for the soul, within God’s favor wherein we are included in His purpose and plan for the redemption of this world. We are saved into this secure status through the work of Christ alone, and we are granted confident access to the presence of God in all aspects of our lives by the mediation of Jesus for us. In addition, Jesus, our eternal High Priest, has sent His Spirit to dwell with and within us in order to provide that regular, routine, and on-going conversational communication with God that was the Father’s desire and intent from the beginning of time.

Therefor we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Hebrews 2: 1

 

Let’s face it, we do not like to be told to pay attention. The internal response to such an admonition is to say, “I am listening! I heard every word that you said!” Yet, our actions often make a lie of those assertions, for we do not actually do what we were instructed to do. All of this is human nature, and it is something that most of us encounter on a rather regular basis from both sides of the interchange. When the subject in question is salvation, and the person being discussed is Jesus Christ, the issue becomes much more serious. That is what the author of Hebrews is discussing here. Jesus is the singular one who is superior to any and to all angels, and His way to relationship with God is superior to any other way that might have been set out prior to His coming to dwell among us and His death and victorious rising up in defeat of Satan.

 

In the days when Hebrews was written, there were people who were teaching numerous ways to get into a relationship with God. This is still the case today. There are prophets and seers in our world who claim to be inspired by angels and by other forms of divine revelation so that the way to god that they espouse is claimed to be the only true and effective one to follow. Yet, none of these angels, prophets, or teachers of human-devised wisdom can attest to the fact that they were placed here by the direct hand of God, that they lived among us, were taken and tried and still found blameless by humanity, were put to death and buried, and then were alive walking among us and ascending into Heaven. This well-attested to narrative is the singular one that demonstrates the presence of God in a man and that presents this same man as the One who can take each of us out of the state of eternal death that is our birthright and place us before God Himself as Jesus proclaims us to be holy and righteous. Thus, we are found and adjudged to be fully acceptable to God and granted an eternal home with Jesus in Heaven.

 

Yet, when we listen carefully to God’s Word of truth and life, we are also granted far more than just the wonderful and magnificent hope of eternity. We are also taken into a new life in this world and a new purpose for the days that we have to spend dwelling here. Christ has overcome all of Satan’s hold on life and on this world. Although brokenness is still present with us and evil remains to work its chaos and havoc among us, they no longer have ultimate power or control. When we accept Christ and submit to Him as Lord and Savior, we are also rejecting the ways of evil in our world. We are seeking to engage with life as people who love rather than hate, who show mercy instead of exerting power, who seek justice for all as opposed to using law as a tool for gain. In Christ, we can be motivated to a new economy of grace in all that we think, say, and do, for as we are new beings in Christ, we can strive to make the peace and the joy of Heaven the reality of our world here and now. This will never be an easy endeavor as there will always be opposition to such thoughts and actions. However, Christ also was subjected to rejection, conflict, and opposition. As He went before us then and does go before us now, He will lead us into His victory over the forces of evil in this world.

My eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.

Luke 2: 30-32

 

Simeon was waiting and hoping. He had God’s word that his life would not end until he had seen the Savior with his own eyes, but those eyes were aged and weak. His pace had surly slowed and become unsteady so that even the journey to the temple was a bit precarious. Still, Simeon hoped and prayed and remained true to a faith that was rooted in a place inside his heart that was even deeper than the aches and pains of old age. So, one day as he was at the temple praying and continuing to watch for the arrival of the one who would set the world right again, he saw another of the many couples who brought their sons there to be dedicated to the Lord. But this time it was different.  On this day, this baby came with a certain presence that was revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit. Now he knew that God’s consolation had come, and His redemption for all of Creation was at hand. Now Simeon could depart this world in peace.

 

Here, in the temple in Jerusalem and in human infant form was the answer to all that is wrong in our world. Simeon saw the arrival of God’s promised Savior, and the Spirit revealed to him that this was a much bigger event than even he might have previously considered, for Jesus, the Messiah, had come not only for the chosen people of Israel but He has come into this world to bring about the restoration of relationship with God and with each other for all people regardless of tribe, nation, race, or circumstances. This same Jesus that the aged man held so long ago holds the power and the strength to overcome all of the forces of anger, strife, violence, difference, and dispute that work their havoc in our world. He is the singular effective point of coming together for people as it is through relationship with Him that we are brought into commonality of mind, heart, and purpose.

 

All reconciliation of peace starts in the same place as it did for Simeon. He trusted God to be good to His word in bringing into this world the means for salvation from sin’s death, and he believed in the presence of that Savior in the person of Jesus the Christ. The same is true for each and every person on this earth. As we trust God and believe in Christ as His Son, our Savior and Lord, we are granted the presence of eternity in our being and the wisdom and insight of the Spirit as our counselor for the hard journey into joy, peace, and reconciliation. For each of us the road to faith and obedience to God begins with Jesus; then, it goes forth into serving His will in our world. We are to be people who bring the blessing of Christ’s reconciliation to all of the people we encounter. We are also called upon by God to gather together in His name and to seek to include in our fellowship of faith the diverse individuals and groups of people who we meet along the way. For as our eyes see God’s salvation, let us also proclaim its presence in Christ to the world around us while we enter into seeking out the Lord’s reconciliation for our troubled lands.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9: 1, 2

 

When David wrote these words, I don’t think that he was setting out any conditions to their application other than the fact that they were the truth about the way that God interacted with all of his life. There is no note of saying that I am thankful now that I am not a poor youngest son of a shepherd, or that he is appreciative for the current state of peace in his kingdom, or even that David can express his joy in the current depth of his spiritual life. David is saying that he is thankful for it all, for the good, the bad, the joyous and the sorrowful, the times of wealth and the depths of poverty, for dwelling in a palace and for the damp ground of a cave’s floor. Like David, Jesus knew them all; for He experienced all of the highs and the lows of living, and He goes with each of us through all of it. Even before Jesus made it literally true, David seems to have understood the reality of a God who walks with us and who takes us through every step of life.

 

The close and intimate nature of this relationship gives purpose to living, and it provides a focus for my day that takes me outside of my problems, challenges, and concerns. The Lord also brings a powerful sense of hope into my heart. The presence of His Spirit in me continually encourages and motivates me to see the potential in every situation and for each day of my life. As I look at God and focus deeply on who He is and on how He is involved with me, I experience a sense of peace that is centered deep within my heart, and this peace brings freedom to every aspect of my being.

 

As I lift my voice in praise to God, nothing else matters. As I look at His wondrous love and grace, all of my failings and inadequacies are removed; and as my heart sings with the sounds of worship for my Savior, the freedom that He has purchased for me resonates through every fiber of my body. When I turn my mind and my heart away from the things that I am facing in my day and focus on the glorious gift that God has given to me through His love for me and by walking every step of my life with me, my spirits are lifted, my load becomes lighter, and the future becomes framed in the limitlessness of eternity.

 

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:11. 12

 

Unless you travel is some very rarified company, transcendence is not a word that most of us use with any frequency at all. Yet the idea of living a transcendent life is appealing to people. In fact, we use a closely related term in a careless and indiscriminate manner when we speak of seeking after excellence. This is obvious when a business asks for us to evaluate the service that it has provided, for the ask is generally tendered by the employee who performed the service, and it is always accompanied by instructions about the necessity that the score be nothing other than the highest one possible. This sort of false and worldly excellence pervades our culture, and it has changed the way that we consider what we hold up as above the ordinary so that which is truly transcendent.

 

Transcendence is a quality that has existed since the very beginnings of creation. God has defined it in His nature and has expressed it through His character. God is beyond and outside of all that He devised and all that He made; so, God transcends everything else, for God, Himself, created all that is beyond Him. Now this idea raises some complex and challenging questions about the presence of evil in our world, and I am going to simplistically say that God’s creation, the people of this world, have turned on our Creator and formed the rebellion of sin and its accompanying evil with our own hands. This is what happens when the creation determines that it is now the supreme one, the creator. The existence of evil is why we long for the transcendent. With all of our hearts we want to get away from the strife and the struggle of this world. We seek to dwell in a place of refuge from the violence, disease, and the loss that fills our days with their grim funeral dirges. God is aware of our desires, and He is also aware of our true need. He has never been silent or absent from us in His seeking to save people from our world and to grant us His presence; yet, we are often not very receptive to our Lord and to His advances toward us.

 

However, the Lord did not stop with being above the chaos of this fallen creation or with engaging with us from the vantage point of the spiritual realms. God left His place in the uncorrupted and entered into dwelling among humanity in our dangerously broken environment. He entered as newborn baby, grew into manhood, and demonstrated what it is to be a human who lives out God’s righteousness and love on this earth. Then, He yielded all that was His life here to the will of the Father so that we would have a new and a perfect means of entrance into the eternal. Christ came and gave to each of us the way to leave behind our earth-bound orientation. This new and transformed view of what it means to be alive on this earth in these days is granted to anyone who accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, and in so agreeing with God, we are permanently purified in God’s eyes and His Spirit begins to work within us to reform the very nature of our beings into one that views our world and that encounters God from the perspective of the eternal. The circumstances and events that make up living in this world do not change, but as we live out our days in the presence of Christ, our ability to understand and to experience peace while engaging with all of it is radically altered as with Christ we too can transcend the sin and death of this world and plant our feet on the firm ground of God’s eternal Word of Truth.

 

 

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Acts 19: 10

 

Paul must have been a stubborn soul. He just didn’t get the message when people were growing tired of his persistent telling of the story of a new life that was to be gained through Jesus, the Christ. At this point in the account of Paul’s life of service to Christ he had been traveling from city to city in Asia Minor for a number of years. Generally he would stay in one place and preach, teach, and enter into relationships with the people there until his truth telling caused antagonism and hostility to rise up against him to a level that required Paul to move along to another place. It seems that the world where he lived wasn’t always very accepting of or even open to hearing the accounts of this new way of knowing God. You see, the Gospel of Christ is subversive; it changes people who, in turn, start living differently. This new way of engaging with life, which is foundational in creation, causes people to challenge the systems and the practices of the culture, and it impels them into becoming workers for that change.

 

The presence of these transformed people with their different perspectives on how life is to be conducted under the authority of God and within His grace, love, and mercy is upsetting enough for those who are in power. Yet, I think that there was more than this behind the antagonism that Paul encountered. His message of Christ was essential truth expressed in terms that moved beyond the abstraction of religious ritual and entered into the arena of real everyday life. This was both convicting and frightening to those hearers who were unwilling to accept the surrender of self that Christ demands of His followers. So, people who felt threatened or who were disturbed by this confrontation of truth pushed back and fought against the message of the Gospel by speaking and acting in opposition to the person who was delivering it. Most of this push back was expressed in words or in acts of rejection, but some of it was also carried out by means of physical violence. Paul’s mind, heart, and body were at risk.

 

Yet, he did not stop doing what Christ had called him to do. When required to do so, he would move along to another city, find a new corner to preach on, and start building relationships with more people whose eternal souls needed to hear the truth of the Gospel of Christ that Paul so diligently and joyfully served. This is a great story about the character and the calling of one of the people who we hold to be a foundational writer for our understanding of the Gospel that he served. However, like almost everything that is contained within God’s Word, the point here is not really historic in nature. I grant that Paul was a very special person with a particular calling from God; yet, I think of these aspects of his life as serving more by way of example and as a form of encouragement for each of us than as mere recitation of the past. We too live in a world that pushes back aggressively against the truth of the Gospel. Like Paul, we reside in cities, counties, and a world where the only real hope lies in the transformative presence of Christ in the hearts and the minds of people.

 

As followers of the same Christ as was Paul, we should also not be quiet and certainly not be satisfied until every one of the people who resides in our sphere of contact has heard the truth of the new life that is gained in and through Christ. We cannot allow the voices of disagreement and of opposition the momentary victory of our silence. We may need to follow Paul’s example and move from a place of overwhelming contention to a similar one where Christ’s words of love and reason can be heard, but this is not silence, and it certainly is not defeat. The Gospel of Christ is life, it brings hope, and it answers all of the fears, violence, anger, and oppression in our world. This truth must be heard, and you and I are the ones that God has called to speak it out loudly and clearly so that the glory of Christ lights these dark days with its compelling radiance of new life in Christ.