Love One Another

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another”(Jn. 13:34).

In poetry, music, theater, movies, novels, and history itself, any observant person can see that humans are obsessed with love. Love intrigues us, it compels us, and it befuddles us. Just as people are fascinated by love, so too people are often unable to define or explain love in any genuinely coherent way. We talk about love as though it were an irresistible feeling, a fleeting charm, and an unbreakable bond. And yet, each of these descriptions contradicts the others.

Like many meaningful concepts in life, God’s word speaks clearly as to the nature and expression of love. But we are often so preoccupied with fantasy that we are unable to consider the beauty and glory of reality. Jesus Himself is offered as the exemplary loving person, and He calls His disciples to love as He did and does.

Far from the romantic imagery of teenaged longings, true and genuine love is robust, textured, and panoramic. Furthermore, there is one place on the planet where God has designed Christ-like love to take its truly expansive shape. In the context of the local church, Christians display the kind of sacrificial, persevering, gracious, radical, and inspiring love that Christ both exemplifies and empowers.

Light in the Darkness

“I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he… Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me”(Jn. 13:19, 21).

In Jesus’ final hours, we see Him troubled by the darkness surrounding Him. One of His closest friends betrayed Him unto death, and the devil himself takes on a personal assaulting role. Jesus seems utterly alone and victimized as the night intensifies.

However, Jesus is not merely a passive sufferer. No, right in the midst of this deepest darkness, Christ makes Himself known as the God of light. Moreover, God is revealed in Christ as the truly sovereign ruler of all – even the darkness.

We see the God of the Bible as one who is greater than we ever knew and more awesome than we could have imagined. His power and might extend far past the boundaries we often envision in our finite assumptions. To the watchful eye, God shows His brilliant light in the midst of darkness. For He is the God who forms light and creates darkness, and He is the God who has promised that darkness will one day be no more.

The Good Shepherd

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11).

Christianity is a distinct religion among all of the options we have in the world. The basis of Christianity is not found in a leader who shows the followers what they must do and how they must do it, nor is it found in a leader who demands nothing of the followers.

Christianity is defined by the Christ who came from God in order to rescue a people from their own destruction. This rescue, however, was not performed according to worldly standards of power. Rather, Christ rescued His people by giving Himself over to the destructive consequences of the people’s disobedience and foolish rebellion against God.

Christ took on the role of a shepherd among His people who are like helpless sheep; and when the flock was exposed to ruin, Christ absorbed the full weight of it. This selfless sacrifice is not all that Christ does as shepherd of His flock, but it is the pivotal point at which His relationship with His people is solidified. All that Christ is and all that Christ does is enjoyed by those people who are counted as His sheep from among all the people of the world.

May Christ be glorious to you today, and may you find Him to be the Good Shepherd of your soul.

Hope-filled Promise

The psalmist says, “Remember Your word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:49-50).

In this world, we will face good days and bad ones. Anyone who has lived long enough can easily attest to the fact that some days are quite bad. We endure affliction from multiple sources and with varying effects.

Some suffer from the pains of bodily illness, others from mental anguish, still others from emotional distress. Some grieve the personal loss of a loved one, and others ache under the weight of needy loved ones who yet remain. Financial strain, relational dysfunction, precarious job situations, wayward children, and a slew of other crises may afflict us throughout our lifetime.

With all of this, what is the Christian’s hope? Do we hope in the words of politicians or doctors, philosophers or well-meaning friends, employers or academics? The psalmist reminds us that there is a word from God, which has the ability to create hope and give comfort… even in the midst of affliction.

What, then, is that life-giving word from God? Ah, the most glorious word from God is the promise He made to renew all things through the Savior – the suffering conqueror. Oh, such a word is blessed hope to all those who hear and believe! Though things are not now as they should be, God in Christ is making all things new! He will not leave things as they are, but He will renovate heaven and earth.

Dawn of Hope

God said to the serpent of old, “I will put enmity between you and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

It is overwhelming to measure what was lost when sin entered creation through Adam and Eve. The bleakness of death, the brokenness of relationships, and the barrenness of creation itself are all results or effects of this horrific fall. In God’s poetic response to humanity’s first sin, we hear terrifying truths.

And yet… there is also a beam of hope-filled light amid that darkness! God’s first words about the future of mankind were not condemning but restorative. Before God declared the disastrous curse, He shouted the hope-giving promise of blessing!

In this ancient account of the first sin, we find the first gracious proclamation of the good news from God. He is merciful, and He promised a rescuer, a savior, a restorer. All that was lost in the fall is gained through Jesus Christ.

Jesus restores life to the dead, He restores the joy of living to the glory of God, He restores harmony in broken relationships, and He restores the heritage of an everlasting family.

In short, Jesus is Himself the dawn of hope for all who love and trust Him.

Christ Alone

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).

Christ alone is the savior of sinners. This exclusive claim is repugnant to our culture of trivial tolerance, and it has always been obnoxious to sinful humans everywhere. And yet, this intolerant declaration is actually quite expansive. Just consider how wide the invitation really is.

While the Gospel of Christ does indeed prohibit the notion of any other savior besides Jesus, this exclusive Gospel also opens the way for any guilty sinner to approach God with confidence and joy. Regardless of pedigree, intellect, geography, wealth, or a host of other demographic descriptors, anyone may find gracious compassion and newness of life in the one-and-only Savior.

God has provided an incomparable gift in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The priceless Redeemer has satisfied God’s wrath for sinners like us; the perfect Justifier has earned righteousness on our behalf; the tireless Intercessor pleads our case even now; and the conquering King of glory welcomes us into His good kingdom forevermore.

Oh, yes… Christ alone is the sufficient savior of sinners!

The Christ Who Threatens

Jesus said, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

Everyone loves an encouraging word, but not every situation calls for one. A person suffering from a fatal illness will not benefit from a reassuring lie. Our children are not corrected if all we give them is kindhearted counsel. A defiant army is not subdued by the mere wooing of a negotiator.

Jesus Christ offers words of great encouragement, but these are not the only words He offers. Jesus spoke (and still speaks) words of dreadful threatening, and we are wise to take these words to heart. The true and sober warnings from a faithful friend should be the most welcomed words of all.

What greater despair and anguish could there be than for one to die in sin? The thought is horrible, and yet many carelessly dismiss it today. Christ is the gracious Savior of all who believe (trust, love, serve) Him, but He is the indignant judge of all who remain in their sin of disbelief.

May God gracious grant that we take this warning to heart, and may He grant us grace to believe and thereby be free from our sin and guilt.