What We All Really Need

I’ve been steeping in the gospel of John these past several months. As I’m nearing the end of the book, the account of the crucifixion and resurrection are filling my mind. But I’ve been interested by how much these closing chapters reflect the opening chapters.

Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and brought before authorities. Then He came before Pilate – one of the bloodiest governors of his time. Pilate questioned Jesus about His claim to being the King of the Jews.

Jesus responds:

 For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. John 18:37 NASB

At the end of His earthly life, Jesus takes us back to the  very beginning of His ministry; His birth.

For this I was born…

He came. With a purpose. Wrapped in flesh.

The One who was with God in the very beginning (John 1:2), came.

Not just for a visit.

Mary wrapped her arms around what she would never fully be able to wrap her mind around.

He made His residence here. Having masterfully created The Beginning, Immanuel came at the very tiniest of beginnings. To identify with His creation. To be their representative before His Father.

We were His purpose; His Father’s purpose.

Satan introduced humanity to death. Christ introduced humanity to life – eternal life. Life that was born in humility and lived in obedience.

We need this pure, spotless, perfect LIFE.

And Jesus could never have died in the flesh had He not first been born in the flesh.

And for this I have come into the world…

He didn’t have to come. After all, He didn’t belong here.

Those whom He dwelt among knew there was something different about Him. They begged Him to prove Himself, though He already had. They cried for a show of power, but He knew that time was yet to come. He waited; they waited. 33 years.

He was, and still is, Life – Life that is Light to all humanity (1:4).

33 years spent living the life we should have lived. 33 years obeying the One we should have obeyed. 33 years of undeserved ridicule and humility.

His own did not know Him (1:10-11).

Time after time John records in his book Jesus telling the disciples and the multitudes and even His mother that His time had not yet come. He was waiting. He was obeying. He was living the life we should have lived.

His life replaced ours in the sight of the Father. And His death and resurrection are ours; we are the manifestation of the miraculous.

He came to live; as important as His death was, He is encircled on either side of death by life. And that life was lived for our sake. And He lives now so that we can be born. Born new. Born to eternal life (1:13)

He came to live more, I think, than He came to die.

Life was always the purpose.

He came to shine a light into darkness. “The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin; the light of the world is Jesus.”

We need this eternal Light to scatter the darkness that surrounds us and to lead us to His eternal Life.

to testify to the truth…

He was born, to live the truth, not just to speak it.

He came to be the standard by which we can discern what is right and wrong – what is truth and what is lie.

He is the Word – the only true Word (1:1).

Every word, every action, every expression, every movement, was motivated by truth and righteousness and love.

He came so we could behold His glory – full of grace and truth (1:14).

We need the truth He embodies, through His Word and His example; to be our standard and our example of true Life.

Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

If we abide in lies, whispers of Truth are unrecognizable. If we abide in The Truth, The Way, and The Life, then nothing rings clearer or is more precious than the gentle beckoning of our Good Shepherd.

Those who had even the smallest understanding of Christ on earth were those who first chose to believe the truth that He proclaimed and lived. And then hung on His every word.

We need, oh so desperately, to hear His voice. Amidst the piercing yells and shouts of our enemy, the world, and our own sinful desires, we need that constant and loving call of our savior. And the call is clear to those who are listening for the distinctly familiar tones of the One they love (John 10:4).

None of this season of celebration is of any consequence without the truth. We celebrate because the Way, the Truth, and the Life came. Was born. Walked and talked the Truth. Died in love. Rose in power and new life.

He who has no beginning was born of a woman and born again from the grave, so that we might be born again in His New Life!

I’m reminded that the more I get to know Him, the more I will love Him, worship Him, trust Him, and follow Him.

And that is what we all need to live an abundant life in the midst of a dark world – the way we can continue to shine the Light that He began to shine all those years ago.

Merry Christmas!!

Groanings

I’ve been frustrated the last few days. I don’t know about you, but for me that feeling of frustration can arrive unexpectedly and inexplicably. It can take a significant amount of time to mine the depths of my soul and discover where the feeling is coming from.

I’ve found what it is this time.

I am longing for perfection. And order.

I am longing for the IDEAL.

The source of my frustration is that those longings can not be reached here and now. I want perfect motives, perfect actions, perfect performance, perfect surroundings, perfect relationships, perfect circumstances, perfect children, perfect friends, and a perfect home. I want everything to be in it’s place and I want uninterrupted plans. I want my possessions to stay clean, undamaged, and functional. I want the small bits of beauty I’ve tried to insert into life to remain beautiful. Sheesh, I just want the kitchen floor to stay clean for a whole day!

I understand there are dangers to ‘perfectionism,’ but those dangers are realized in what we do with the desire for perfection.

The desire for perfection is not wrong. What we do with it can be.

The desire for perfection, for the ideal, is the imprint of God on our souls.

Desire for the ideal takes me down two paths simultaneously.

One path is the path of groaning. The Romans 8:22-23 type of groaning.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

We all are keenly aware of the fact that things are not as they should be. We fail, others fail, nature rains down disaster, our bodies and minds are slowly decaying.

Attention to our present predicament leads me, and I would imagine you too, to deep inner groaning and frustration.

But when I zoom out to get a bigger picture of it all, I am reminded that what I long for is on the horizon! The ideal and perfection will be reality one day. And I can’t wait!

That’s exactly the direction of the next few verses of Romans eight.

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…

(Romans 8:24-26)

My hope for perfection, for redemption of my body and of all creation, is agonizing at times. I’m so eager for what is to come that I just want to skip over all this life and get settled in my new and final home. But it is God’s perfect will that, for now, we all are where we are. Weaknesses and imperfections and all.

So we’re stuck with hopeful groanings.

Yet the beautiful thing is that the Holy Spirit is taking those sighs and groans and frustrations that we can’t put to words – He’s taking them directly to the Father for us.

And I’m further reminded of our Savior. He understood infinitely more of perfection than I do, yet subjected Himself to this weak, frail, imperfect world. And He groaned too. He understands what we feel. I imagine He had the same longing for home that we have. But He stayed, and He endured.

He asks the same of us.

We must stay and endure, entrusting all our groanings to Him.

After all:

… we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

(Romans 8:28)

Why You Should Get Your Hopes Up

“Don’t get your hopes up.” I’ve heard it and said it hundreds of times. In fact, in an effort to prevent disappointment, this has been part of my inner dialogue since childhood.

Right now, I am excited by some of the possibilities on my horizon. But as swiftly as any of those thoughts enter my mind they are immediately rebuffed with ‘don’t get too excited, it probably won’t happen…..’ You know the rest of that story. Is it any surprise that in my early teen years I was so generously bestowed the nickname ‘Eeyore’?

Even as I look around at the world today I find it easy to despair. And I don’t think I’m the only one. We see evil, corruption, murder, lies, immorality, wars, sickness, poverty, hatred. We see it in our own homes. We see it in our communities. We see it in the numberless hopeless headlines on our news feed.

It all makes me lose hope sometimes. I begin to assume that no matter the scale, big or small, nothing will turn out well. It makes sense to guard myself against disappointment by just assuming the worst. By not getting my hopes up.

But I have been so wrong.

I see now how my efforts to temper earthly hope have unfortunately had the same effects on my heavenly hope.

That has resulted in a life that is lacking: lacking joy, lacking happiness, lacking love, lacking peace. Oh, I have these things on occasion, but not as steadfastly as I know my Heavenly Father desires.

Hope should be an earnest and driving force in a believer’s life. It should be clearly evident to those around us. It should be one of our distinguishing characteristics. The world should marvel at the hope we have, and want it too!

1 Peter 3:15 calls us to a great endeavor. An endeavor that requires hope and preparation.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.

This verse is convicting because it requires more that just telling the world about Jesus. It requires that we first manifest an undeniable hope.

In order to begin to live daily with such a noticeable hope we have to go back to the beginning. Why do we have hope?

We have hope because God has made us promises. We can hold fast to our hope because “He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)

The God who promised He would never leave us or forsake us is faithful.

The God who is preparing a place for us is faithful.

The God who promises that we will one day be like Him is faithful.

The God whose glory will one day be revealed to all is faithful.

The God who will wipe every tear from our eyes and heal all wounds is faithful.

His promises are sure. They are so unshakably certain that the word hope seems inadequate to describe the trust we can have in them. What He has promised will be. God is not a liar.

So, how will the unbelieving world recognize hope in us? Scripture is full of answers to that question, but here are a few to get you thinking.

A hope filled life is:

Rejoicing (Romans 12:12)

Persevering (Romans 5:4-5)

Eagerly waiting (Romans 8:25)

Unwavering (Hebrews 10:23)

Prepared and sober (1 Peter 1:13)

Pure (1 John 3:3)

(Take time to look up these passages – you won’t regret it!)

This is what the unbelieving world should recognize as remarkable about us – so much that they want what we’ve got.

That’s why we need to get our hopes up! That’s why we need to get excited about the certainty of what we hope for! Earthly hopes will disappoint, but we don’t need to despair because our heavenly hope is guaranteed.

And you know what? I’m gonna shake off Eeyore and let myself get a little more excited about the little things too. Because even if they do disappoint, I still have a secure hope that will beautifully unveil itself in the end.

I would love to hear what you think about this topic! Do you have a favorite passage of Scripture that reminds you of the hope you have in Christ? Do you ever feel convicted, like me, of not manifesting the hope you have in Him for the world to see? Can you think of anyone you have observed who has shown undeniable hope in God, even in the midst of difficulties?