Friday, December 12, 2008

Who do you say I am?

I had just received a phone from a dear brother-in-Christ. He mentioned to me that a lifegroup leader had pronounced that this financial meltdown was God’s way of teaching the world, especially the US and Europe.

Rather I have asked him to ponder, “If it is so, why doesn’t the lifegroup leader quit his job right now so that he can achieve God’s will in his life?”

I remembered the tsunami and also 911 - the fall of the Twin Towers. Many people had lost their lives and loved ones. Can you believe preachers proclaiming that it was God’s judgement upon the world and America? Can you accept that Aids disease came from God to teach homosexuals and drug users a lesson?

The world in its chaotic state has been going into overdrive towards self-destruction ever since the fall of Adam. The devil has also been working overtime to seek, kill and destroy Man, whom God created in His image.

Can you see a God who is pleased when people lose their lives? Is that God’s will?

Of course we know (I hope) our Father is not like at all like this. He does not bring sickness, famine or poverty. I was taken aback actually because those condemning words had been spoken by a lifegroup leader.

I can understand when the world points an accusing finger at God for catastrophic events because they do not know Him. But for a Christian to agree with the world’s understanding and also attribute disasters to God is a very, very sad thing.

When the world proclaims doom and judgement, it is nothing new because they do not have hope.

But if the church of Christ says the same things, how are we different from them? Surely we have the answer. Surely we know and can reveal Christ who is the hope of the nations. Surely we are called the salt and light of the world.

If the church does not have hope, who else can share the gospel of hope and the good news to this lost world then? What good are we then in this world?

Jesus assured us with His answer. He said, “I came not to only to give life, but give life MORE abundantly.”

Life abundantly. Life-giving answers. A hope and a peace that the world does not understand.

Who do you say I am?
After putting the phone down, I felt God prompting me, “Son, who do you say I am?”

“You are my Father, who loves and cares for me enough to send Jesus to die in my place and redeem me. Even though my salvation is free, it came at a very costly price – the death of Your Son.”

Then the Holy Spirit reminded me with this verse, “Blessed are you for this was not revealed to you by man, but by your Father in heaven.”

John 3:16 (Amplified)
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

Most of us know this verse John 3:16 by hard. But many may not have remembered the next verse.

John 3:17 (NIV)
17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

God is not on a ‘condemnation’ hunt. The world itself is already condemned. That’s why we need a Saviour.

Do you know that God loved us so much that He is willing to give up His only Son? So why would God want to bring added famine and poverty into this world when it is already spiralling out of control?

Shouldn’t God bring THE answer to the world? Why add more sorrows?

Think about it. Will these so-called disastrous acts of God steer people towards God and know Him as a loving Father, or will such acts make people avoid God altogether?

Romans 2:4
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

It is God’s kindness and goodness that draw people to Him. Just like how the sinners and prostitutes were drawn to Jesus. Not his wrath. In fact wrath and judgement create a barrier between God and us. They establish a chasm to distance us from Him.

Is that God’s will to put a distance between Him and us?

Read again slowly:
For God so GREATLY LOVED and dearly prized the world that He even GAVE up His Son…

God so loved the world (with us sinners within) that He willingly gave up His Son to take our place. Instead of us facing His wrath and judgement, Jesus took our place. He was separated from God as He soaked up our sins. In exchange we are accepted before God through Jesus' shed blood to make us righteousness by faith.

Remember Jesus shared this parable:
Matt 13: 44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

The man/merchant in the story is God, who gave up His best (Jesus) so that he could buy (redeem) us back. He saw us as treasures of great value. That is what God’s love is all about.

We were like the hardened criminal Barabbas who was set free in exchange for the sinless and perfect man - Jesus. Jesus died in his place at the cross while Barabbas walked free.

Matthew 27:46
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus had never addressed God as “Eloi” in His life because God was always “Abba, Father” to Him. But now we notice the distance between Father and Son.

God couldn’t stand the sight of His Son because Jesus carried the sins of the whole world – past, present and future. Jesus was ugly, cursed on the cross and marred with God's judgement. “Condemnation” was upon His head.

So God turned His back upon Jesus and embraced us instead. He cast Jesus from His presence so that we can be accepted in the Father. And God’s fiery judgement and wrath fell upon the sacrificial Lamb so that we can now experience God’s love and kindness.

Jesus took every stroke and penalty of the Law upon Himself that we may have the blessings that come apart from the Law.


We are His beloved now
That we can be close to God. That we can call God – Abba, Papa. That when Jesus died a lonely man, God can say to us, “Child, you are mine forever.” Yes that is how much God loved us.

So much enough to sent His dearly beloved Son to die for us to redeem us.

Going by the same grain of thought, why would God want to punish the world if He had already sent His Son to save us? Isn’t it contradictory?

Do let me know if you had ever read in your bible where Jesus once told a man with a shrivelled arm to stretch forth the other arm. Looking at the normal arm, He pronounced, “Be withered!”

Then Jesus preached a convicting sermon to warn everyone that God is against sin. Looking at those withered arms again, he left them crippled and unhealed to remind the man never to sin again.

Did such a thing ever happen in the bible?

Or perhaps Jesus called down fire and brimstone upon the woman caught in adultery? Or stirred the storm further into a greater frenzy to teach faith to His disciples whom He called “O ye of little faith!”

Why would a doctor inject you with sickness only to administer you with his saving medicine? Would any father purposely put his son’s hand into the baking oven to teach him about not playing with fire?

How would you feel about such a doctor? Will you ever visit him again? What about the father? Would you ever do such a thing to your son?

Gee, there is only such a place for these people - in the mental asylum!

Yet we see God in such a way. And even preached Him to be such!

What will people think about this almighty yet vengeful god? Would you want to draw close to him? Surely not I! I’d rather be far from him lest I incur his wrath.

Therefore it makes no sense that Christians speak of my Father as a God who is out on a sin and condemnation hunt; when in truth, He had sent His son not to condemn the world but to save us.

Let him who has ears, let him hear.