One of the “words” from the Lord for 2011 is to “Know our Bibles!” Yet, it seems we continue to abandon, change, or stretch the truth of the Word while refusing to properly read, interpret, and apply it to our lives! When there are disagreements on subjects in the Word, people tend to defend their own position saying “We just interpret it differently” rather than agreeing to press in and seek truth! We witness Christians reading more books about the Bible than reading the Bible itself thus developing their own theologies and reasoning to cope with or explain situations in life. Though Christian books are great we must be more saturated with the purity of His Word.
The Church is drowning in lukewarm theology and when confronted with rebukes from the Word of God we often reject them, preferring encouraging words that make us feel good about our life in Christ. The truth is rebukes ARE encouraging because they call us to account for wrongdoing that we might confess, repent, and correct behavior. In fact, the Word reveals to us the necessity and benefits of rebuke as well as the love God has for us. 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” Titus 1:13 “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). So why is it that when we are rebuked for sin we get defensive or offended as though we are not in sin? The answer lies in the deception that we have it all figured out, that we are not in sin, or that we only need God to rebuke us, certainly not Christians. Though it is true God can work solo it is equally true He uses others to convey His messages through rebuke, revelation, prophecy, and the like. Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth has been nearly completely abandoned in the Body of Christ because it is so rarely received thus leaders prefer to let God handle it rather than standing in their God-given callings by preaching the Word or bringing a rebuke.
The Word of God is unchanging! We must know our Bibles! His love is manifested through His Word! God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the fellowship we share with Him is manifested in His Word! If we continue to say and do only what makes us comfortable, what we understand, and what pacifies and brings momentary comfort, if we continue rebuking rebukes, we not only miss out on living a victorious life here on earth, but we risk our heavenly home as well. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Jesus says “few” find it! This should put fear in us to stop twisting Scripture, stop denying the purity of His Word, stop rejecting truth brought by those who have given their lives to sharing the Gospel, stop living our lives as though we are not in need of rebuke, and submit ourselves to the authority of His Word and to those who are called to lead us. Do we hear the Word of the Lord and does it cause us to fear Him, or do we simply rest in the assurance we are “in” and there is nothing else I need to do or be?
Jesus IS the Lover of our souls! He died and rose again for each person who will receive Him and believe in Him as Lord and Savior! He forgives and cleanses when we confess and repent of our sin. His grace and mercy is available to all who come to Him. He fills our every need when we go to Him hungry and thirsty eating and drinking from His table. Friends, there is a necessary response and lifestyle change that occurs in our lives when we enter into relationship with Jesus! We will long to fulfill His Word, to study it, to be taught. Every day people die who were baptized into the Christian faith but have not lived their life in Christ. We convince ourselves all is well and we will see them again even though believing in Jesus entails coming to the light while we live on earth! We use verses like John 3:16 to bring assurance we are still saved, even if we have stopped going to church, worshipping God, reading and applying His Word, praying, confessing, repenting, and trusting God. Friends, these are all signs of “unbelief”! Making Scripture fit our lifestyle or ignoring Scripture all together is sin. This is not condemnation! This is good news! We “get” to be in relationship with a loving God who sacrificed His own Son to save us!
When we proclaim John 3:16 we are restating what God has said! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Let’s look at the meaning of the word “believe” in the original language. It means whoever has the faith by which to embrace Jesus. It means there has been a “conviction” and now a person holds a firm belief that Jesus is the Savior and follows this belief with action! Believing in Him includes being full of joyful trust that Jesus is the Messiah, the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. “Believe” is conjoined with obedience to Christ meaning in faith we give ourselves up to Jesus! In other words, you can’t say you believe and then put this relationship on a back burner, put your Bible on a bookshelf, never again acknowledge His presence and Lordship in your life, and then expect everlasting life! Does this set off an alarm in anyone? It should! This Scripture is said to be the “Gospel in a nutshell”! The Good News wrapped up in one verse. God did it all! We need to “believe” in the truest sense of believing! It is more than mere words my friends.
When I was young I was an insecure person with low self-esteem. I had zero confidence, was shy beyond belief, and even the thought of demonstrating affection caused a breakout of hives. When I started dating my husband I could not look at him in the eyes in conversation much less hold his hand or give him a hug. Even well into our marriage he would often hug me and say “Don’t worry honey. You don’t have to hug me. I will hug you.” That was my “clue” I was still not embracing him or our love relationship. I could have spent my entire life never fully embracing my husband. He would have loved me the same but I would not have enjoyed the fullness of our love relationship. My lack of embrace was a reflection of my lack of belief in him to be loyal and true, committed and unreserved in our marriage. But as I came to know him more after marriage by spending time with him I learned to trust and share with him in every aspect of life and fully embraced him and our marriage. The more embracing I did, the more fully I came to believe in him, to believe in “us”, to believe in our marriage covenant.
I hope you see the correlation here. Believing in Jesus is not a one, two, or three time occurrence. We say it and then we live it. When we say “I believe” it does not instantly result in a full and passionate love relationship with God anymore than when we say “I Do” at the altar on our wedding days do we experience the fullness of love from that day forth. But rather when we say “I believe” we are committing to a love relationship with the One who gave His Son to us so that we would believe and commit to fully embracing Him in faith as we go through life. When we say “I Do” we are committing to a life-long love and devotion relationship with our spouses. In both scenarios we commit to doing everything possible to keep our relationship healthy and growing.
God gives us reason to believe and the faith to grow more fervent in love with Him. We must embrace Him, His Word, His Church, and all He has provided to us! We must spend time with Him, learning to trust Him in every aspect of life, allowing Him to lead and guide us into truth in order to benefit from the covenant He has established for those who believe. And though I used the word “must” it is truly a privilege to enter this relationship with God, to embrace Him with all that is within us, to trust and obey Him, and to have the assurance He is Messiah, the Savior of the world.
When we truly grasp the reality that “God so loved the world” we will let go of our insecurity, our need to be right, our own striving, and our own desires. We will seek truth! We will experience His love and be humbled at the fact He willingly sacrificed His only Son. Our response will be one of complete surrender and total obedience because we are fully surrounding Jesus with our love and devotion, as He has enveloped us in His love and grace! We will feel excitement at the promise of never perishing and walking in everlasting life!
Before I close this out, let me touch on the word “everlasting”. It is the same Greek word for “eternal” found in John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Catch this revelation and let it sink in to your spirit. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Eternal life is knowing Father God and Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit NOW! This eternal life begins TODAY – in this lifetime, on this earth. We do not “wait” to experience this eternity when we die! In fact, that may be too late! We experience it now! Know your Bible! Know Jesus! Believe in the Bible! Believe in Him! Then LIVE!