If God wanted to talk, would you listen?

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”

‭‭John‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

We listen to so many narratives in life.  There’s no shortage of voices trying to get in on your internal conversation, trying to explain life, and define reality.  We give credence to scholars, philosophers, authors, gurus. Like the ancient Athenians, we love to listen to whatever seems new (Acts 17:21 NKJV).

But in our rush to hear the counsel of the multitude of voices, there’s a short circuit.  Jesus said, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”  But why?  Why are so many of us so quick to believe everyone else but God?  Why are we willing to stake the destiny of our lives on the words of so-called “teachers” – new age philosophers, business magnates, celebrities, and even those claiming to speak to the dead – and yet be unwilling to even hear out the God of the universe?  He does not just explain reality; in fact, He is supremely qualified to explain reality because He made reality.  And although much of what we blame God for is actually not part of His original plan, He can provide answers and perspective that no one else can.

Will you give Him the same opportunity you may be giving to an outspoken tv personality?

If God wanted to talk with you, would you listen?

“I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.”

‭‭John‬ ‭5:43‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;”

‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NKJV‬

“So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’…”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:27-28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Why people don’t give Jesus a chance

No one has ever proven their love for you more profoundly and completely than the Son of God. Maybe you don’t want to open your heart to Jesus because you fear that if you really contemplated who He is, and what He’s done for you, you’d fall in love with Him.  That has been my experience, and I highly recommend it.

Romans 2:4 NASB

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

John 12:32 NASB

“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

Paying More Than Death

For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:18 (NASB)

Jesus didn’t just die for our sins – He suffered what we should have suffered. That means that to wipe my slate clean, to forever erase the otherwise indelible stain of my sin, more than death was required. Part of the payment was soul-shredding pain, grief, and sorrow to a degree we cannot fathom.

In my humanness, I cannot imagine so much as willingly accepting responsibility for someone else’s parking ticket, let alone being put on death row for someone else’s crime.

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. Romans 5:7

How could anyone be so good? Love like that is incomprehensible to me.

Heavenly Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, I am in awe of You.

The Gift of Brokenness

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:3-4

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:17

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalms 34:18

Do you feel like you’re falling apart inside? Like life has a personal vendetta against you? Consider it your moment of opportunity.

It sounds completely crazy, I know. But having a broken spirit can be a priceless gift.

Think about it. How many people have you met who choose to bottle their pain up instead of dealing with it? How many people destroy their bodies and shorten their lives using alcohol and drugs to cover up their hurts? How many crave the sensory overload of a night club but never ask themselves why? How many become pleasure addicts, seeking a dopamine rush from food, sex, gambling, compulsive shopping, or any number of quick fixes? If you’ve ever been addicted to anything, you know that addiction is slavery. (If you don’t have first-hand knowledge of that, this new show on TLC will convince you.) How many people out there would rather be enslaved to vices than face the truth of their brokenness, the truth that always screams louder in the stillness and quiet?

When you’re numb, or high, or otherwise over-stimulated, it’s easy to desensitize your heart to the pain and forget yourself. The fear of coming back to that quiet, still place keeps you running away. The saddest part is, when you run like that, like a dog chasing it’s tail, you’re only running from yourself.

But if you feel broken, and you think you’ve got nothing left, then you’ve actually got something that the people in denial don’t have: hope.

Yes, you read that right. Hope. Because if you’re not aware that you’re broken, you’ll never try to get better. As long as you refuse to own up to your brokenness, you will never stop looking for a fix. But, if you know you’re broken, you actually want to be fixed. You’ll ask the question that can change everything:

What do I do now?

When the jailer charged with keeping Paul and Silas imprisoned saw that they had been set free by an angel, he resolved to kill himself rather than face the punishment that awaited him; but when Paul told him all the prisoners were still there, the jailer fell at their feet and asked this very question.

“And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:29-30).

Likewise, when Peter boldly laid out the gospel at Pentecost, the book of Acts tells us that those who accepted his message were “pierced to the heart” by God’s truth (Acts 2:38). Their sin was laid bare before them. Accepting their brokenness, they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?”

The answer?

  • Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.  (Acts 16:31)

If you are broken, it’s because you haven’t found anything in the world that can give you what you need the most. Drugs will mask the pain. Pleasure-seeking will temporarily distract you from it. But when you’re ready to stop running and take an unflinching look at your broken life, the Savior is waiting to pick up the pieces.

And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with falling to your knees, if you fall at the feet of Jesus. If you’re broken, there is hope for you, if you will reach for the outstretched hand of God.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in…”  (Revelation 3:20).

A Chance Worth Taking

But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. (1 Corinthians 2:14, NLT)

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6, NASB)

There is power in the Word of God. Even while immersed in an elaborate, almost universally accepted system of religion which had assimilated pagan traditions under ostensible trappings of Christianity, noted priests like John Hus and Martin Luther sparked the Reformation based solely upon their reading of the Bible. The Word of God is “living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

God speaks for Himself on the power of His word:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

But what effect does His word have on the faithless heart? The Bible teaches that spiritual truths are spiritually understood. The carnal mind is unable to comprehend the truths of God. And those who have an attitude of disrespect toward God should not expect any kind of special sign of His existence, or some supernatural confirmation of the power of His Word. God is God. He is sovereign. He transcends humanity, and his thoughts are incomprehensible to us except as He chooses to reveal them to us through His Spirit. He doesn’t have to give signs. He doesn’t have to submit to anyone’s criteria of belief or convince anyone He is real. His existence doesn’t depend on anyone’s help or acknowledgement.

Throughout the gospels, we see that faithless people would unflinchingly cling to their rejection of Christ, no matter what signs or miracles they witnessed. He raised the dead; He healed the sick; He made the lame walk; He cast out demons; He fed the multitudes. Even in spite of all this, some still asked for a “sign”. Like a genie in a bottle, they thought Jesus should just perform magic tricks for them upon request (John 6:30). Some even said, “Just tell us you’re the Messiah, and we’ll believe You!”, but it just wasn’t true. Their hearts were hardened against Him. Their rejection of Christ was already complete, irrevocable.

That’s not to say He doesn’t desire to connect with us. In fact, the message of the Scriptures is quite the opposite. God would do anything to save each one of us. He created us, and then became one of us so He could redeem and restore us to our Edenic state. He became like us – who were created in His image – so that He could redeem everyone in our image (Romans 8:3). Even the faithless and unbelieving; even those who revile Him.

The Lord is not afraid to match wits with you. He invites you to sit down and reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18). He has promised to reveal Himself to those who seek Him with all their hearts. If you have your doubts or questions, that’s ok. He can manage. Give Him a chance to answer you. He will give you enough reason to know He’s there. Be diligent about seeking Him, and you’ll be amazed at what you find.

What have you got to lose?

In his book “Take the Risk”, Ben Carson talks about Pascal’s wager. Throughout the book, Carson explains his theory of decision-making using a best and worst-case analysis. What’s the best and worst thing that could happen if I do something? What’s the best and worst that could happen if I don’t do it? He applies this analysis to belief in God.

Think about that. If there really were no God, and you fully believed in Him, what is the worst that could happen? You’d still have lived your life with a sense of purpose, which likely made you happier than you otherwise would have been. What would you really have lost?

On the other extreme, what is the worst thing that could happen if God really does exist, but you don’t believe in Him? You could be facing quite a slap in the face. Jesus Christ appears in the clouds, and as the Bible says, “all the tribes of the earth mourn…”, and people wish the rocks could fall on them (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7). What if it’s all true? Every word of the Bible? The Scriptures say that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Philippians 2:10). Check this out:

“I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Isaiah 45:23, NASB.

Now ask yourself: if the Bible is all true, and you take the chance of not believing, what do you stand to lose then? The Bible says that the human mind has not even begun to conceive of the wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him:

but just as it is written,” THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD,AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Do you really want to risk missing out on that? If not, I hope you’ll pray this prayer from your heart.

Heavenly Father, if You’re there, I want to know You. Please help my unbelief, and give me enough evidence to know that You’re really there, and You’re really listening.

Photo by forrestegan accessed via flickr

True Freedom

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NASB)

I once heard Pastor Alejandro Bullon say in a sermon that the difference between God and Satan is that God wants to lift us up, and the devil wants to push us down and step on us. I have found this to be true in my own life. At my lowest point, I felt completely insignificant and unlovable. I felt like nothing I said or did mattered, because I didn’t matter. Knowing that God and my family loved me didn’t seem to make any difference in my state of mind.

I now recognize that every time I felt the message that I was worthless pushed into my mind, it was exactly what the devil wanted me to think.

Jesus, on the other hand, has a different way of seeing me. When I was down, He lifted me up. When I felt unlovable, He professed His love for me. And as much as the devil wants to make us feel bad about ourselves, the truth is that we are priceless in the eyes of the One who loved us enough to die in our place.

This is the essential difference between Christ and Satan. Christ is about selfless love, while the devil is about self-love. That’s it. People say that it’s irrational to believe in Jesus. But what’s really irrational is to choose to ally with someone who hates you over Someone who loves you.

The devil claims that God wants to oppress us. That is the most absurd, sinister, and hypocritical statement ever made. The truth is that he is the one who wants to oppress us. Consider what happens to someone who is demon-possessed. We read in Matthew 9:32 and 12:22 about demon-possessed men who were mute, and the latter was also blind. In Matthew 8:28 we read about two demon-possessed men who were living in tombs and were so violent that no one could pass by anywhere near them. In Mark 5 and Luke 8, the demoniac was naked, living in a cemetary, cutting himself with stones, filthy, and screaming at the top of his lungs. Make no mistake: this is what the devil does to people when he has complete control over them. How is that liberating? On the contrary, it is oppression in it’s cruelest form. That is the existence the devil wants for us. He accuses God of doing what he himself actually longs to do.

Now consider what became of that man when Jesus came into his life. Mark 5 says that when the townspeople came to see what had happened, they found the formerly demon-possessed man calmly seated, clothed, and in his right mind, and “he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed” (verses 15, 20).

So you see, Jesus is the real Prince of freedom, not the other way around. Jesus is the One who loves you. He is so committed to you that He left untold glories to become a human being on this earth, live a sinless life, suffer persecution, and die in your place, so that you wouldn’t have to be a slave to the devil and sin any more. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)! Jesus said that He, the Truth, would make us free (John 14:6; 8:32). He laid down His life for you, and He took it back up again to live forevermore (John 10:17-18). “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Don’t believe the lies that Satan tries to tell you. You are no insignificant person. You are the object of God’s infinite love. If you feel crushed and broken, draw near to Jesus as you are. He is there waiting to pick up the pieces of your broken life. In His loving arms, you will find true freedom.