Cross Words – October 2018

  In the introduction to 1st John in his biblical translation, The Message, Presbyterian minister and author, Eugene Peterson writes:
 
  The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God. More often than not, the mess people make of their lives can be traced to failure or stupidity or meanness in one or both of these areas. (Eugene Peterson, The Message, Navpress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2003, pp 227)
 
  If you’ve watched or read the news these last weeks, I’m sure you would agree with Peterson. I might even suggest that at one point you shook your head, and you thought or spoke aloud that “what this world needs is Jesus!” Where, however, is the world going to find Jesus? In “the church?” In His disciples? In you?
 
  In our discipleship journey, we too must answer Jesus’ question to His disciples as recorded in Matthew 16:13-20, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Peter’s life was never the same.
 
  It is my belief that somewhere along the way, we (North American Christians) have lost our way. We fell out of love with Jesus and fell in love with the institution of the church. In the process, we moved away from Jesus’ “easy yoke” and became inwardly focused on the maintenance of the institution rather than the Kingdom of which we are citizens. We avoid answering Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am,” because we don’t want to be pinned down to the God Jesus reveals.  Rather, we make up our own ideas of God and make up our own ideas of what love looks like.  John Updike in “A Month of Sundays,” described the church this way
 
  In general, the churches . . . bore for me the same relation to God that billboards did to Coca-Cola: they promoted thirst without quenching it. (Joseph Small, Flawed Church, Faithful God, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2018, pp 1)
 
  Like so many in the world, many Christians are dying of thirst because they base their faith on personal/family religious traditions rather than Jesus as revealed in Scripture. The Word of God is described as “sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of soul and of spirit . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV). We think we can hide from God, but we cannot. Trying to separate these two intrinsically related realities; God and love, we run into trouble. To deal with God the right way, we must learn to love the right way, and if we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. The two cannot be separated. C.S. Lewis wrote, “God is love, but love is not God,” and John writes in 1 John 4:8 (ESV), “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  The world is full of lots of people. Some are easier to love than others. We are called to love all – even our enemies. Left to our own selfish and self righteous attitudes, this will never happen, however, when we grasp the reality of God about which John writes, “. . . for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV) the fruit of God’s people will produce evidences of His Kingdom. Love is from God – a gift. We can love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) In the Gospel of John (15:16-17), Jesus said
 
  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit  should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  God chose you, and He loves you so much that He sent His only Son for you. What a precious gift!
 
Rev. Clark Remsburg, Jr.
 

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