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“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them…We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:11-12, 16b & 19-21
God took on flesh so He could lay down His physical life for us [John 1:14]–for our sake and in our place. Jesus made Himself the propitiation–the reparation–for the wrong of our sins that separated us from God [1 John 2:2]. In the infinite love of God, Jesus bridged the gap, lighting the Way, the Truth and the Life for all humankind to see [John 14:6].
As Christians, we are the light of God’s love to a lost and dying world [Matthew 5:13-16]. If we love all others, constantly willing for their good–good as defined by God–then God’s light shines through us. It brings glory and honor to God. It brings understanding, clarity about God, to believers and unbelievers alike.
So many times God takes the fall for being unloving because human beings–His Creation–are unloving. But just as Christ stood in the gap to make things right between God and man, so we as Christians should be stemming the tide of darkness in this life. We should be boldly living as disciples of Christ [John 13:35], loving others as God first loved us [1 John 4:19]. We should be lighting the path of the lost with God’s love so that they see their way to eternal life and joyfully return to their Heavenly Father.
When we don’t love with God’s perfect love, we shadow His true character in the eyes of the world. When we don’t let His infinite love flow through us–whether from pride or sin or selfishness–then the world doesn’t open their ears to hear [Romans 10:14]. When the gospel is not lived in love, its heard message is dismissed as hypocrisy .
If we decide that we just can’t get along with someone, then we are not loving with God’s love. When mistreat us and we let it keep us from loving them anyway, then we are not loving with God’s love. If we hold grudges or allow jealousy to grow into hard feelings, when we judge or gossip, then we are not loving with God’s love. Then we are not a heavenly light guiding others to Christ but a darkened signal willing their condemnation.
God saved us from death. For this reason alone we should love Him enough to love the rest of His Creation to life. Is your life a light of the good news of God’s love?
“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
God’s goodwill toward us is infinite. Even while we were still sinners [Romans 5:8]–therefore rebellious enemies standing in opposition to everything that He is [Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21]–He willed our eternal good, faithfully extending His mercy and graciously sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. So that we could be redeemed from death to life [Galatians 3:13].
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friend [John 15:13]. Truly we are God’s friends and God the Son, Jesus Christ, loved us with the greatest love that there is in this life.
God is the pattern of love, the greatest commandment that He commanded us to fulfill with our whole life. Love the Lord your God with every facet of who you are [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. We show our love to God when, while we are still sinners, we will to lay down our lives to follow Him, to be remade in His image in heart and mind and soul and strength [Matthew 10:38 & 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23 & 14:27; Romans 12:2; Galatians 5:22-26].
Love your neighbor as your self [Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28]. Why self? Because self is the one that we sinful-naturally most care about. We’re always looking out for our own heart, mind, strength and soul regardless of how our hording of advantages affects anyone and everyone around us. Self is the one that we have promoted to the status of God, thanks to Satan’s lie in the Garden [Genesis 3:5].
But God wants to heal our vain notions of self and our desire to increase self while we debase others. God wants us to understand the leveled playing field of His transcendence. He wants us to realize that His love for us is not greater or less than His love for every other person in the history of the planet.
Only when we realize that the truth of who we and the rest of Creation are in God’s love can we learn to discern good, love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with God [Micah 6:8]. Only when we learn to defer self for the good of all–which includes self–do we truly learn to love as God has commanded. Only when we lay down the finite understanding in our heart, mind, strength and soul and take on the mind of Christ can we truly see the pattern of God’s love for this world [1 Corinthians 2:16].
Are you patterning your heart and mind after God’s love through prayer, praise and Bible study? Have you dedicated your strength and soul to extending God’s love to a lost and dying world?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Mercy is God’s compassion–His loving desire to free us from the bondage of sin and to lighten the burden of the sinful world on our lives.
But grace goes beyond mercy, granting us life though the wages of our sin is death [John 3:16; Romans 6:23]. Granting us adoption as God’s very own children though we were once His enemy [Romans 5:10; Ephesians 1:5; Colossians 1:21]. Giving us a glorious inheritance, though we crucified His one and only Son, Jesus [John 3:16; Galatians 3:29; 1 Peter 2:24].
Grace is rewarding us when–not only haven’t we earned the reward–we actually deserve to be punished instead. And then, the reward isn’t just a participation trophy or a thanks for playing memo. By God’s grace, through our faith, He richly lavishes on us the reward of the victorious.
Though we fall short of His glory and don’t deserve heaven, by God’s grace, Jesus Himself–the one we crucified with our sin–is preparing a room for each one of us who believe on Him [John 3:16 & 14:2-3; Romans 3:23].
Right from the beginning, God determined by His grace that when sin entered the world He would not leave or forsake mankind, the apple of His eye, made in His image and for His good pleasure [Genesis 1:26-27; Deuteronomy 31:6; Zechariah 2:8; Ephesians 1:3-10; Hebrews 13:5]. By God’s grace, He made a way to redeem us from the prince of this world [John 14:30].
Though sin burned more rampant than wildfire through the hearts of generation after generation, He preserved a remnant [Genesis 6:5-8], called a people to be His own [Genesis 18:18-19], and brought forth a God-man-Son to atone for the sin that we chose over Him to begin with [John 3:16; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17].
God’s grace is inconceivable by human terms. It is undeserved yet also immeasurable. Most importantly, it is attained by faith alone. There is no good thing that we can do to earn it. No way to work our way into heaven.
By God’s grace, salvation comes through faith alone.
Are you trying to work your way into heaven? Do you stand on the merit of your own goodness or God’s? Will you accept God’s grace through faith–being absolutely sure of who He is and what He promised, though invisible to the naked eye [Hebrews 11:1]?
“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.'” Revelation 15:2-3
Human minds will never more fully understand God’s justice than when we stand before Him in heaven. Then we will see Him face to face, even as He has always seen us [1 Corinthians 13:12]. Then we will know how all of His essence is one, even as He is also one [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29]. Then we will see our finite existence from the perspective of a holy eternity.
God is just because all truth is His truth. And justice cannot operate without truth.
God is just because He is also good and loving and all-knowing and unchanging. He is just because He is also holy and sovereign and wise and all-powerful. He is just because He is also transcendent and everywhere-present and faithful and gracious and merciful. He is just because He is also self-existent and self-sufficient and eternal and infinite.
All of His character works together as one unit, rather than as separate entities. He is never more or less any of these qualities, just as none of these traits exists outside of His person. God is just, because that is who He is.
He is self-existent and self-sufficient, so His justice is not counseled by any created being.
He is unchanging and He is holy, so His justice never wavers to the left or to the right [Proverbs 4:27].
He is all-knowing and wise, so His justice has always faithfully extended grace.
He is all-powerful and sovereign, so His justice is precisely exacted.
But He is also good and merciful and loving and gracious, so He provided a substitution for the wages of our sins [Romans 5:8 & 6:23; 1 John 2:2]. A substitute to accept our condemnation so that, by His grace, we could be considered righteous [Romans 3:20-24, 5:9-11 & 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8].
He is transcendent and yet everywhere present, so His justice is always objective while His grace and mercy are always faithfully at hand.
He is infinite, so His justice is not limited in any way. He is eternal, so His justice contains all of our finite existence, but will endure for all eternity.
God is just.
Have you ever found yourself questioning this truth? Do you know others who question God’s justice? Often this is because we don’t like that God’s justice means there is a right way and a wrong way. But as God said to Cain nearly 6,000 years ago, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]?
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I heard first speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.” Revelation 4:1-3
The entire book of Revelation predicates the understanding of the triune Godhead. All three persons in one accord are present throughout the letter. Right from the first line and chapter defining this piece of scripture as–1) the revelation of Jesus Christ; 2) given by God the Father; and 3) received in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when Jesus spoke to John [Revelation 1:1 & 10-18].
The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the promised gift of God the Father to comfort and empower believers in Jesus’ physical absence from the earth [John 14:16 & 26, & 16:7; Acts 1:4-5 & 8]. This is important to us, because during the time of the Law of Moses in the Old Testament the Israelites couldn’t bring their sacrifices directly to God, they couldn’t stand in His presence because of the sin in their lives. Only the High Priest one day a year could come before God in the Holy of Holies to make the atonement sacrifice for the sins of the people [Hebrews 9:7].
When Jesus came to the earth as a physical human being, people could approach Him without fear of their sins. He mediated between God and man, freely forgiving all who asked and healing and providing and performing many other miracles as well. At His death, the Temple veil miraculously tore in two pieces, showing that Jesus had once again opened the way to God the Father for all mankind. But when He ascended into heaven, God the Spirit was sent in His stead. Through Him we continually have access to and communion with God the Father and God the Son.
All scripture is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16], and the book of Revelation was a timely message as well. Jesus had left the earth. The promised Spirit was at work–but not physically visible. The apostles were writing letters to the many New Testament churches, letters which were inspired of God and were canonized as God’s Word. But in Revelation Jesus spoke directly through the Spirit of God to the churches–His Word was final.
After John records the specific messages to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor, Jesus speaks to him and the Spirit descends on him again, together they usher John into the throne room of heaven and the presence of God the Father.
Without question, the Trinity of God is a very real, very divine phenomena. All three persons in perfect accord with each other, and all three persons eternal, having existed before the Creation and continuing forever after the first Creation comes to an end.
Do you commune with God the Father and Son through the Spirit in prayer, praise, Bible study and the like?
“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:5
One of the customs of Day of the Dead is to build an altar and fill it with the favorite foods and possessions of those who have died. This act of remembrance is done in the belief that the souls of the departed will return and be happy to know that you have remembered them.
Scripture is clear, however, that the souls cannot return to us or enjoy this world anymore. They cannot hear or feel or choose to follow God if they did not accept Him in life [Ecclesiastes 9:5]. We should not become superstitious or fearful about them, or in anyway devote our time and passions to the dead [Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1 & 26:14]. Therefore, while it can be healthy and good to remember those who have gone before us, remembering is for the living. The dead cannot enjoy the smells and sights of a painstakingly prepared altar memorial.
However, altars are mentioned 384 times and offerings 728 times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, so they do have a very significant spiritual place in the Christian life.
The first altar is mentioned when Noah gets out of the ark and makes a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God [Genesis 8:20]. Each altar is built as a place of remembering God.
The first offerings, on the other hand, go all the way back to Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:3-5]. Very specific offerings and times are prescribed. God instituted this sacrificial system so that the Israelites would be aware of their sinful state, though the sacrifices themselves could not fix the sins [Hebrews 10:4].
God, however, asks us to prepare our hearts as an altar for our lives [Romans 12:1]. That is, He asks us to remember Him with our whole heart–intellect, will and emotion. By doing so, we will recognize our sinful state and repent. Through repentance we accept Jesus’ lordship in our lives, allowing His forgiveness to cover our sins.
Satan would have us forsake altars and offerings or misuse them, but he does not want our cultural understanding to be made whole or our spiritual vision to be made clear. He does not want human beings to restore the heavenly altar of our hearts.
Will you consecrate your heart to Christ? Will you lay your life on the altar of a Godly heart?
“Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, ‘Take your sharp sickle and gather clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.’ The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.” Revelation 14:17-20
An angel with a much smaller sickle, the curved knife blade used for harvesting grape clusters from the vine, comes out of the heavenly temple next. Following him is the angel in charge of the fire for the heavenly altar–another evidence of the earthly temple being patterned after the original in heaven [Leviticus 6:13]. The fire-angel passes the harvest command to the grape-knife angel.
The grapes are ripe. The time for God’s patient love has passed.
The image of God’s wrath as a winepress was common in the Old Testament [Isaiah 63:3; Lamentations 1:15; Joel 3:13]. To make wine, harvested grapes were filled into the vat and then workers would tread barefoot–that is walk through the vat, squishing the grapes underfoot so that their juice flowed into the lower levels of the winepress.
Again, it is not God’s desire that any should choose this end [2 Peter 3:9], but everyone has the free will to do just that–choose or reject God–despite His desire for all to come to eternal life [John 3:16-17].
Those who choose sin, thereby choose to pay the wages of their own sin by themselves. The Bible tells us clearly that the wages of sin is death [Romans 6:23; Leviticus 17:11]. And just as Jesus suffered outside the city gate [Hebrews 13:12], those who reject God will face their end in this place of disgrace. They will give their own life blood in their appointed time of death–as all must face [Hebrews 9:27]–only their blood can never bring forgiveness of sins. So when the unforgiven die, they face the second death, that is eternal punishment in the fires of hell [Revelation 2:11, 20:6 & 14, 21:8].
So great is the number of those who refuse God in this life, that John sees a vision of blood rising somewhere between 4 and 6 feet high, covering an area the length of the Holy Land from north to south.
Everyone’s sins must be paid for. But no one has to pay the penalty for themselves. Have you accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins? Or will you choose to pay for yourself?