For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3: 16

 

It didn’t need to be this way. We did not need to require saving, for God made this world with perfection as a major thread in its fabric. That perfect creation did not know disobedience and the decaying corruption that sin brings about. The peace of eternity was something to enjoy during every moment of the day; so, people did not need to hope for it as a future event. We had God’s presence as our regular and our routine companion, and communication with Him was unstrained and without restraint. Yet evil and its disobedience did exist in the universe, and Satan appeared before our ancestors with his crafty ways and his shiny eyes of deceit, and they listened too long and responded without careful consideration of what was true and what was not quite so. The result of all of this was disastrous for all of creation from that moment onward until today.

 

In the situation at hand, God had to make a choice. He could have destroyed what His hands had fashioned and start over. This was completely within His power and this entire world was then, as it is now, under His authority. God would have been within His rights to have acted like a sculptor who is dissatisfied with the result of His work and so rolled the clay back into an unformed lump to rework its consistency and start anew with shaping it into the great creation that He had envisioned and desired to form. Yet, this was not how God responded. He was already invested in the relationship with Adam and Eve, and even with the knowledge that He possessed of just how hard it all was going to be, the Lord was not going to give up on the relationship. God came to the people and approached them with His stern hand of love so that the process of restoration of relationship could begin. The Lord brought redemption and granted purpose to Adam and Eve that continues forward to today.

 

We are the recipients of this same mercy and grace that was granted to the first people. God still comes after us in our sinful wandering, and He comes to us wherever we have gone. His desire to see our relationship with Him returned to the intimate and everlasting nature of His original design is relentless. In fact, in order to perfect this restorative process, God gave the world Jesus as the ultimate and complete payment for all of our sinfulness. In Christ we are all set free from the penalty of death that belongs to each of us from birth. With Christ we enter into a life that transcends this world and that takes us into the eternal presence of God and into a new life that is lived out as a citizen of the Lord’s kingdom come to earth. All of this is done out of love. God loves each and every person and all of His creation with a passion that is all consuming and with a form of commitment that is beyond human reasoning. Christ is God’s expression of total love to me and to you. When we come to Christ and surrender our striving to His gracious will, the Lord writes His eternal love note on our hearts.

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Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1: 15

 

So many of us in the world of the Christian faith get very energized by the promise of an end to all of the evil and the corruption of this world, and we look with a sense of great anticipation for the moment when this changed existence will become our own reality. This human and earthly transformation is an absolute promise that God has made, and I have total confidence and faith that He will fulfill it. Yet, Jesus said from the very beginning of His own time with us on earth that the time was now and that restoration was ours for the taking.

 

As I consider the glory, wonder, and majesty of Christ, and I pause to reflect on how far He traveled, what He gave up, and the degree to which He suffered for me, the only words that come to mind in response are, “Thank you.” That may be a fine starting point, but that is not what Christ actually wants from us. He wants us to accept the fact that He has already given us the opportunity to live in the presence of our Creator every moment of each day, that we are newly reformed into the God-image bearing people that we were designed to be, and that we are charged with the purpose of carrying the message of our hope that has been found in God’s grace to the unredeemed people of our own world.

 

Believing in the gospel means that we buy into the total truth that God has laid out before us. That requires openness to the fact that none of us are perfect. So, there will be crises and struggles of faith that will cause the journey to have its rough and challenging times. Still, the Lord promises that He has an answer for every one of these hard aspects of life, and He calls to each of us to keep our eyes focused outwardly and upward toward Him. Then, we will see and understand His very real presence with us through it all. Jesus is asking us to gather around Him and to follow Him through every day of this life, for the promised kingdom of God is our home here and now.

 

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14: 17

 

Rules are a good thing. They bring order to our world. In the early days of time God devised a very complex code of behavior when He was preparing His chosen people to enter into a period of dwelling in the land that He was giving to them. Then, over the course of history, God has continued to inspire people to structure our societies into units of governance that are intended to bring order to our lives and that generally promote peace and justice. Yet, in all of this cultural structure there is one essential thing missing, and no human government ever contains this aspect. No words in a charter, constitutional provision, or legislative mandate can accomplish it either.

 

For it is a fact that when we humans are left to our own devices, and God does grant us that sort of freedom; we will always opt for a human king as our ruler. We seem to desire that we can touch and hear the voice of our leader. We want to experience their reign in earthly terms. Unfortunately, that means that we are setting aside the heavenly for the worldly. It causes us to establish rules of law to order our days rather than ordering our hearts and our minds along the lines of God’s path of righteousness. In all of this we are ready and willing to engage in the debate about all manner of external issues; yet, we are reluctant, at best, to speak out for justice for the weak, life for the unborn, and righteousness as our rule of law.

 

In Christ, we are citizens of a greater kingdom than any of the ones that we have created on this earth, for we are adopted into the Kingdom of God. In this kingdom there is only one supreme ruler, and He provides the structure and the order for entering into life in its fullest sense. We do owe allegiance and we have responsibilities to human governments; however, all of this respect for government and its laws is founded upon the principle of following God and His Law. Our true King is very real, and His voice is clear and decisive to people who desire to hear. As the Spirit of Christ dwells in His people, He guides us into living in obedience to the rules of God’s Kingdom. These are the rules of love, peace, joy, and righteousness. It is in them that we find life.