God’s Love – Part Three

As we continue our look at John 3:16 and the love of God, we have seen:

1> How John 3:16 came to be

2> That God’s love is extravagant

Today, let’s look at the fact that God’s love is extensive. The verse we are looking at is John 3:16 which states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God’s love is extensive deals with the sixth word of John 3:16 where we discover the object of God’s love: the world. It is doubly amazing for a Jew to write such words. As I noted when speaking of Nicodemus, it was basic to Hebrew culture that a Jew loved fellow Jews, and others not so much or not at all. He looked down with proud distain on every Gentile, knowing that the Jews were God’s chosen people with whom He had a special relationship.

One writer comments: “The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian ideal that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all humankind. His love was not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It was a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love (1 John 4:8).

Jews like Nicodemus would be aghast: God loves – so loves – the world? Surely not! God so loves the Romans, with their cruel tyranny? God so loves the Assyrians and the Babylonians, who carried the Jews into bondage?

Absolutely. The world was put on notice that God loves the lovable (whoever they may be); He loves the unlovable; He loves Jews and the haters of Jews. He loves all people, and all fall under the love of Christ. No one is too evil or too far away for His love. 

We need to be aware that the term “world” is used in two different ways. John says here that God loved “the world.” But in another place he says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). This seems contradictory; God loves the world, yet He tells us not to love the world if we want to be like God. How do we reconcile these two verses?

There is no contradiction. In 1 John the reference is to the world system that rejects God — the world Satan invaded at man’s fall and blighted with lust and pride and all other evils. Later John will say, “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). The Greek word for “world,” kosmos, has different meanings in the Scriptures based on the context. In his Gospel, John is telling us that God loves all the people of the world, sinners though they are. In his Epistle, John is telling is that we must be careful not to fall in love with a wicked and godless world system, which would be a form of idolatry. His message is to love the world’s people but not its program. 

Just as the world carries shades of meaning, so does the word love. C.S. Lewis wrote of four different kinds of love: friendship, affection, erotic love, and sacrificial love. And it’s here that many people get confused. We know that God loves us, and we need to understand just what kind of love that is.

I happen to love the country where I live. I’m deeply thankful to have been born here and live here. And I love my country will all my heart.

But I also happen to love my grandchildren and great grandchild. And my love for them is not at all the same kind of love that I have for my nation. As much as I love my country, my love for my grandchildren is far deeper, far more emotional. I love them with all my heart — and then some. That may not make logical or mathematical sense, but I know what I feel and what I mean.

God loves every individual in this world with the same profound devotion with which I love my grandchildren. The whole truth is, God’s love is far deeper and more profound than even my love for my grandchildren simply because His love is perfect and infinite, as no human love is. No one loves you the way He does — not your spouse, not your mothers, nor your child. No on. 

God’s love is extensive!

God’s Love – Part Two

Let’s look at God’s Love Is Extravagant!

“For God so loved…”

It’s difficult for modern people to understand the cultural world before Christ. Even among the Jews in Nicodemus’s time, the idea that “God is love” was counterintuitive. If you had played word association with a citizen of that day, when you said “God,” the response would have been “fear.” Among the Jews, God was a strict observer of man’s follies and quick to disapprove and punish. Outside the Jewish community, God was considered an outright tyrant.

Even today, heathen religions are all about appeasing the wrath of a furious god. Medicine men and witch doctors cycle through desperate incantations, warding off death, disease, famine, and calamities inflicted by their gods. At the root of this fear is the fact that all people recognize in their hearts that they are unworthy sinners. Not knowing the good news of John 3:16, they are left to dodge the lightening from heaven, which they sense they have earned.

And then into that context Jesus drops these words: God so loves.

It turns religion topsy-turvy. It confounds Pharisees like Nicodemus. It forces a rewrite of one’s idea of the Creator. No longer could the ancients think God to be aloof, simmering angrily on His throne, leaving us to figure some way to forestall His wrath. They had to radically shift their concept of Him from fear to love. Many people today also need to make that shift in thinking – even some believers.

But if we think John 3:16 announced a change in God from wrathful to loving, we miss the point. William Barclay wrote: “Sometimes men present the Christian message in such a way that it sounds as if Jesus did something which changed the attitude of God towards people from condemnation to forgiveness. But this text tells us that it all started with God. It was God who sent His Son, and He sent Him because He loved people. At the back of everything is the love of God.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Volume 1, page 128). God was never the wrathful deity of the ancients; He loved us from the beginning.

John 3:16 opens with a bang, starting not only with God, but with God doing something — God loving. Excuse me — God so loving. The most intense word in this verse is the smallest. Bound up in those two letters, s – o, are all the agonies of the Cross; all the suffering of the Son as He walked among men; all the exertion of a God willing to leave Heaven and take on flesh, not because He simply loved, but because He so loved. Hands that hold us are loving. Nail-scarred hands that hold us are so loving. 

In the world famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, there is in the annex a huge statue of Jesus Christ, writhing in anguish on the cross. You can see the pain on His face, the blood-sweat of His body. Beneath to statue, a plaque read “This is how God loved the world.” He so loved the world.

So loved  is what we say when loves drives someone to action. It’s what we feel when we see the message of God’s devotion written in flowing red script with a pen dipped into His lifeblood — love at great cost, love clearly understood in every language.

This is extravagant love. God didn’t simple say, “I love you.” He said it in torn flesh, in agony, in bearing unearned, vicious punishment. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God’s Love – Part One

My mission and your mission is to say to the world “God loves you, and here’s how much. Now what will you do about it?” So, I want to look at John 3:16 and see what the fullness of the message is that we have the task of sharing. 

John 3:16 is the best known Bible verse both among believers and non-believers. However, it is also, by survey, the least understood. So, this is an important series of blogs that will be worth saving to your tablet or phone so that you can review them often. Just a suggestion. 

The verse:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV).

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (MSG).

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (NLT).

So, how did John 3:16 come to be?

You might think that since the message of John 3:16 is for the entire world, it would have been delivered to a large assembly, maybe even Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5 to 7) or in some of His discourses in the temple. Instead, it was spoken privately to a single person. Nicodemus was a leading member of the ruling Jewish Council, the Sanhedrin. Jesus had aroused the anger and opposition of these Jewish leaders because of His claims to be the Son of God and what they saw as His disregard for some of their laws. 

But Nicodemus was not so sure. He had seen the miracles of Jesus, and he could not write Him off as easily as his peers. We must remember that Nicodemus, like all Jews, saw himself as one of God’s chosen people in a highly exclusive sense. They belonged to God by virtue of their birth into His favoured race. Their coming Messiah would destroy all Gentiles— especially the hated Romans who occupied Israel. Could Jesus be the man? Nicodemus wanted to find out. So to avoid censure of the Sanhedrin, he sneaked out at night to see Jesus alone.

But the conversation did not go at all like Nicodemus expected. Jesus began confusing him with talk about being born again and how the Spirit of God is like the wind, blowing wherever it chooses. Jesus was telling him that the Spirit would soon move even outside the Jewish nation and enter the hearts of Gentiles all over the earth. Then, just in case Nicodemus was still confused, Jesus drove the message home in words no one could fail to understand: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”

God loves the world, Nicodemus; not just the Jews, but the whole world! The door to God is open to all people. It is not a matter of birth; it’s a matter of belief. 

To this one open seeker, Jesus delivered the striking message that summarizes the whole Gospel. Here He laid the foundation for humankind’s relationship with God. It’s not a foundation of judgment or condemnation; it’s a foundation of pure love. In John 3:16, Jesus told Nicodemus — and the rest of us as well — that God would do anything to save us. Even if He has to die to do it. He loves us that much.

Now that we have seen something of the context of the verse and the impact it would have had on this religious man (and the world), let’s take some time this week and take a brief walk through the verse (John 3:16) and explore seven life-changing realities about the amazing love of God. 

1> God’s love is extravagant

2> God’s love is extensive

3> God’s love is expensive

4> God’s love is expansive

5> God’s love is exclusive

6> God’s love is exceptional

7> God’s love is eternal

More next time…. 

The Moravian Movement

Sometimes small steps of faith reverberate for centuries.

At the beginning of the 1700’s, in the small village of Ženklava in the Moravian part of the Czech Republic, a young carpenter named Christian David came to faith in Christ. The Catholic Hapsburgs ruled the land at the time, Bibles were outlawed for the common man, and becoming a protestant believer was punishable by death.

Somehow Christian David was still able to get his hands on a copy of Scripture and came to understand justification by faith in Jesus Christ.

Fired up by his newfound faith, and risking his very life, he began to preach the gospel in surrounding towns and villages. In the small village of Suchdol and Odrou revival broke out, and over 300 of the town’s 700 inhabitants came to faith in Christ.

Most of these new believers spent the next year in prison, paying with forced labor for their crime of belief. But still Christian David didn’t give up.

Finding that a young German count named Zinzendorf, living in Saxony, north of Prague, was offering space on his land for religious refugees, Christian led 280 “exiles” from Suchdol, and many others from the surrounding villages to form a new community on the count’s estate. They named it “Herrnhut”, meaning “under the Lord’s watch”.

Another revival a few years later (August 27, 1727) took this community even deeper in their faith, generating a 24-hour prayer watch and daily small groups to study the Scripture.

From this fervour grew a burden for the lost who had never heard, and in 1732 they sent the first missionaries to the West Indies, and then to Greenland. Soon almost twenty percent of the community was serving as missionaries.

In the next 20 years, Moravian missionaries took the gospel to Labrador, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, parts of Russia, South Africa, Ceylon, Tibet and even to America. They founded Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and evangelized a number of the American Indian tribes. This small community did more mission work in 20 years than the entire protestant church had accomplished in the 200 years preceding them.

It was at a Moravian Bible study in London that John Wesley came to faith in Christ. His preaching was used by God to launch the Great Awakening. Some would say that the evangelical movement in America is actually an extension of the Moravian revival.

And what became of the 24-hour prayer chain that began in August 1727? It lasted an unprecedented hundred years before it was broken!

SOMETIMES I FEEL INCREDIBLY LONELY

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-3smms-10254a6

 

When God created the world, He declared that everything was good (Genesis, Chapter 1)

The sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars — all good!

  • He was pleased 
    • Pleased with the animals
    • Pleased with the mountains
    • Pleased with the oceans
    • Pleased with the trees

Above all, God was most proud of His best work: Man (“very good”)

All was good — except one thing… Read more

It Is a Matter of the “Want To!”

If we fail to find all that we want of Christ, it is not because He is unavailable. It has been said that most of the things we really want, we get; that the true prayers of the innermost heart are always answered, but the key is to aware what your innermost heart is really saying. If you want to be married, there are ways. If you want to get into university, there are ways. If you want to make a million dollars, it’s not as impossible as you think. It’s all in the want to. There are incredibly gifted athletes who fail and untalented ones who make it to the highest level.

But God is attainable to every single member of the human race. Again, it’s a matter of the want to.

Consider Paul, who had three visions of Christ in his lifetime. In 2 Corinthians 12 he described how he was caught up into the third heaven and saw things that were beyond human vocabulary. Paul had a remarkable physical life and a remarkable spiritual life. How touching it is that in his final years, when he knew the end was coming, he wrote that he had only one desire, which he hadn’t yet fulfilled. 

Philippians 3:1-14 “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Here was a man exalted by the early church, obviously admired by all his correspondents. And he was telling them that he had one goal and he hadn’t reached it. The older he got, the closer he got, and the more he wanted to lay hold of that for which he’s been laid hold of.

I long to be that kind of man when I stand on the outskirts of this short life. I long to be uncomfortable, not settled into an easy-chair faith in an easy-chair church, surrounded by people who reassure me that we’ve reached the bonus round of the kingdom of God, so we can just put up our feet and watch the world go by. No, I choose to be like Paul and lived thirsty — straining to take hold of the prize, knowing I’ll never quite get my fingertips on it in this life. The straining hurts, but it’s a good kind of hurt – a blessed kind of hurt.

The question is, Do you want to be comfortable or Christlike, relaxed or renewed?

If you want to be Christlike, ask yourself whether you are satisfied. The Puritans used to say, “He has the most need of righteousness who least wants it.” They were right about that. Are you smug, self-satisfied, and feeling pretty food about where you are spiritually? If that’s your feeling, then you aren’t hungry.

Do you have an appetite for the Word of God? Jeremiah the prophet said, “Thy words were found, and I ate them” (Jeremiah 15:16). The Word is our food, and a living, invigorated spirit hungers for more and more food. Sherwood Elliot Wirt, former editor of “Decision” magazine, explained:

“The problem with this whole hunger issue with Christians is that often we think spiritual hunger works the same way physical hunger works. When you are physically hungry, the longer you go without eating, the hungrier you get. When you finally do eat, fill yourself up, the hunger is satisfied. In the spiritual realm, it’s exactly the opposite of that. In the spiritual realm, the longer you go without eating, the more your appetite wanes. If you don’t eat, you can go for long periods of time and you aren’t even hungry.”

It works in reverse too. Physically, the more you eat, the more you’re full; eating satisfies your hunger. But spiritually, the more you’re filled with the Word, the more you want; spiritually appetite only intensifies. No one truly experiences God and says, “That’ll do me for a couple of weeks.” The more you have of Him, the more you want of Him.

Sometimes, of course, we hit the depths. It takes passion to restore passion, and our needle is on empty. We pick up the Bible. And it’s as dry as dust. The sermons don’t come to life. Prayer life is nonexistent. We feel like we have “lost God“ It is in these times that we should use the strategy I call “force-feeding” based on the principle that it’s better to act your way into feeling than to try feeling your way into acting. 

So, sit down, open your Bible. Read. If drowsiness beckons, read aloud. Stay the course. Sooner or later — this comes with my guarantee — God is going to show up again, I assure you, you’ll know when it happens. It will be like rain after a long drought, feasting after days of starvation. It will feel as if the door has opened to your heart, and springtime sunshine is flooding in.

The next day, you’ll show up for Bible reading ten minutes early, and you’ll go overtime. And as passion for God steals back into your life, an amazing thing will happen. All the passions of your heart will begin to fall into place, to seek their proper levels. You’ll realize that it was more than spiritual dryness that was besetting your soul. When you lose Him, you lose everything., And it is only then He is once again rediscovered that you realize the proper place of every other passion and concern. 

I hope you never lost God. But if you do, remember that He doesn’t withhold His blessing from those of us who wander along the road — as long as we are pointed towards heaven, passionately seeking, hungry, thirsty, and wide open for all that He wants for us to become and to do. 

Christianity Is Unique and Not a Religion

According to Wikipedia, there are an estimated 4,200 different religions and spiritual traditions in the world today. These religions each derive their own set of morality, ethics, and religious laws from their distinct beliefs about the cosmos and human nature. Each one claims to be a superior way of experiencing life, and most maintain that their specific set of values came from a supernatural being, force, or power. Even though, by definition, all these religions contradict one another to a greater or lesser extent, our man-centered culture insists they’re all valid and correct, pointing to the same God. “What is true for you isn’t necessarily true for me” is the slogan for our culture. We’re taught that an extreme tolerance of all these different viewpoints is our only option.

In a sense, tolerance has become the highest of all virtues in the world today. Now, a measure of tolerance is a good thing, in the sense that no one should be oppressed because of race, religion, or cultural differences, especially in daily interactions with people who profess beliefs different from one’s own. 

However, the unfortunate truth is that our culture has taken tolerance to a completely unhealthy place; we no longer must simply tolerate but are forced to accept everyone else’s belief systems, habits, and choices. We must affirm then as good, right, and just as acceptable as our own. In fact, our culture has become so tolerant that we’re completely intolerant of anyone who says that someone or some group is wrong. That’s what leads to ridiculous statements such as “We all worship the same God, just in different ways” or “All religions are the same; they’re all headed to the same destination, just taking different paths.”

However, deep down you know this doesn’t sound right. How can they all be true if they all contradict one another? If one is true, then the others have to be lies, and if they are lies, then they’re not helpful. They are not paths that lead to God but rather paths that lead to the ditches of self-righteousness and/or burnout.

This is where we, as disciples of Jesus, must step in with gentle boldness and faithfully proclaim that not all religions are equally valid or true and that Christianity is the complete opposite of all of them. Right down to its core. 

I am currently doing a small study on the major world religions — Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormonism. A summary of my studies and the beliefs of each will be posted in June of this year.

As is readily apparent, even by a quick read through of what each major religion believes, all these religions have plenty of differences in their teachings and in the views of their deity, or lack thereof. However, every religion basically espouses a very similar practice when it comes to the creatures trying to figure out how to please their deity (or deities). Each one boils down to the creatures trying to get their god or gods to like them. 

These religions are all about creation reaching up and trying to attain the state or quality of their ultimate beings and holding on for dear (eternal) life. Possibly, if you reach up high enough, your god will accept you. If your deity accepts and likes you, then surely he will do what you want him to, right? Everything will go your way. 

However, biblical Christianity teaches the exact opposite of all these other major religions. Ultimately, there is nothing we can do — nothing that makes us good enough or nice enough. There are not enough beads in the world to count. There is no amount of money that can purchase God’s favour. There are no chants or prayers loud enough. There is no enlightenment for us apart from Christ because we’re actually born spiritually dead, and no matter what we do or don’t do, this deity will not and cannot accept us in our fallen human nature. “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Dead people have no ability to get God to like them. 

Therefore, unlike all other religions, Christianity teaches that we don’t have to try to reach up to God. We don’t have to work really hard to get God to like us, because our great God already loves us. Instead of reaching up to Him, God Himself reached down to us. He took on the form and nature of His creation in the person of Jesus, without ceasing to be God, and then died a substitutionary, sacrificial death to atone for the sins of His own creation. 

After this sacrificial death, Jesus was raised to life in order to demonstrate that He was God and that His death was sufficient payment for the sin of mankind. 

Jesus doesn’t merely point us to the way of eternal life, but He Himself is the way to eternal life. Faith in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for sin is the only requirement of Christianity. There is no level of spiritual enlightenment we must attain or number of good works we must perform in order to be accepted by God. He has already done everything necessary for us to be redeemed and offered salvation through faith in Jesus. In other words, mankind can be saved by good works … not just ours. Rather, it is the good work of Jesus on our behalf. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

The Father is very fond of us. That is the exact opposite of every other religion in the world! Besides Christianity, found in the New Testament, no other system of belief teaches how great the Father’s love is for us. It is beautiful. It is perfect. It is life changing. 

Christianity, therefore, is unique. And, it is not a religion, it is a relationship — a personal love relationship with the Living God. 

Answer Questions – Ask Questions

Too often as the church we are answering questions instead of asking questions. Worse than that – we are answering questions no one is asking. We are that far out of touch with the society in which we live and work. And the church has fewer answers than it realizes, or it would demonstrate more impact. But I get ahead of myself.

The book of Acts is the story of Jesus working powerfully through frail and broken humanity to aggressively expand His Church. But Acts wasn’t written to show us how to do church. It was written to show us how to advance the Church in an unreached world. Talk about reaching the unreached! Nobody has had the challenge that the early church did. As the world’s first Christians, they were the only Christian in the world. All the vast unconverted pagan empires lay before that small pack of Jewish men and women that Jesus commissioned. If anybody should be counted experts at reaching the unreached, it was they. Because to them, everybody they came into contact with was unreached. 

But they took Acts 1:8 (see note) seriously, and lived that verse out to fulfillment. If we want to witness Kingdom expansion like the apostles did, it’s not enough to know what they did. We need to do what they did. Two thousand years later, we flatter ourselves over and above our first-century counterparts, imagining we have the advantage of superior knowledge. But knowledge does not get people saved. Nor does it expand the Kingdom. We know a lot about a lot of things and we certainly know how to make profound statements about current issues. However, now is not the time in Church history to wax lyrical. Ours is a day for living out, not sounding smart. Besides, the Church has fewer answers than it realizes, or it would demonstrate more impact than it has. We should be asking the right questions instead of providing wrong answers to questions no one is actually asking. 

As a rabbi, Jesus’s method of teaching involved asking searching questions. In the gospels, Jesus asks 307 questions but only answered two. Why? Because Jesus knew that when we start asking questions, we begin to experience breakthroughs and gain deeper insight into our situation. 

During the day of the Judges (Old Testament), bandits and enemies had the Israelites’ backs to the ropes, beating their self-dependency out of them. There are eerie parallels between the days when “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) and our gimmicks, antics, and over-confidence today. Gideon may have been a coward, hiding in the bottom of a winepress against the onslaught of what was befalling his culture, but he turned the tide when he started asking the right questions.

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).

“Where are all His wonders that our ancestors told us about?” (Judges 6:13)

I have a sneaking suspicion God’s been waiting quite a while for us to ask the right questions. But the important questions don’t sell books or make the writer or preacher popular. The right questions are seldom popular. Asking them often guarantees that you won’t be asked back to speak again. I don’t have the corner market on the right questions, but some of them might sound like:

      • Why does the Church seem to be losing when we’re on the winning team?
      • Why does the average Christian seem bored when Jesus is suppose to provide life more abundant?
      • Why do most of the stories we hear about God working powerfully, like He did in Acts, tend to come from those working in unreached areas of the world?
      • Has the dynamic faith we read about in Acts been tamed into an impotent ghost of its former self?
      • Have we replaced the power of the Holy Spirit with automation, processes, systems, money, and crowds?
      • Why have we stripped outreach of risk and faith, and opted for security instead of dependence upon God?
      • What’s the way back to becoming the dynamic force that Jesus unleashed on the world two thousand years ago? 
      • Does the Church even know it has lost its way, or is it like the Laodiceans, blind, poor, and wretched without realizing it? (Revelation 3:14-22)

So, I think it is time to ask questions and not continue to answer questions no one is even asking. Just a thought. 

Note: Acts 1:8 reads, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

God’s Work, God’s Purpose, God’s Plan

God is at work in your life. More accurately, God is at work in you – inside your heart and soul. 

Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

And the purpose of God’s work (His plan and His purpose) in you is for you to become more and more like Him. 

Many people ask: “If God is at work in me, then what in the world is He up to?” People are disillusioned because they are trying to measure God’s involvement in their lives by looking at the outside – at their circumstances. But that approach is a trap. The end result of God’s work is not measured by how smooth your life runs or how rich or how physically attractive you become. His goal is to re-create in you the character of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul said it this way: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” (Romans 8:29a). That’s what God has been working to accomplish in you — to make you more like His Son. This doesn’t mean He wants you to start wearing a robe and sandals, grow a beard, and add a “verily, verily” to the beginning of every sentence. His goal isn’t to make you smarter and smarter, or to alter your personality. After all, He is a God of variety. He never made any two things alike.

It means that when you became a Christian, there was placed in you a brand-new potential for character. The life of Christ was planted in you. Your potential for good, for character, for change, went up about 1,000 percent. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be God. I know that comes as a shock. But it does mean that you have been given the life of Christ along with all its potential. And now that you have this potential in you, God wants to fan the flame so that as your character develops, you reflect Jesus’ character.

When you think about it, that verse from Paul is a real mind-blower. The God of this whole universe has determined your destiny. He has plans for you. He has a purpose and destiny for you. And it is not to be His doormat or part of the sole of His shoe. He plan is that you are to be conformed to His image!

For me, at times, that is hard to believe. I look at some of my attitudes and habits and say, “Not only do we have a long way to go, God, but we’re going to run out of time before you ever get me to that point.”

Maybe you heard about the fellow who said, “Everybody has been given a certain amount of things to do in this life. Right now I am so far behind, I’ll never die.” If God’s plan is to totally conform my character to that of Jesus Christ before I die, I may never die, either.

Maybe you find it hard to believe, too. You’re thinking, That sounds good, but you don’t know me …I’ve got this temper, and it’s out of control … Or You don’t know about this habit I’ve got … It practically runs my life. That may be true. But keep in mind, God did not move in simply to fine-tune your behaviour. He moved in to transform your character. 

Sometimes the hardest part of getting in on God’s plan is simply believing that it can happen. All of us have areas that we assume are always going to be a struggle. A lot of the time it’s easier to say, “Well, that part of me will never change. That’s just the way I am! My mother was this way. Her mother was this way. Her mother’s mother was this way. I imagine Eve was this way, too. There is no point in even trying to change.”

Think about that statement for a minute. Have you ever felt challenged about an area of your life and given that as your response? Many people do. But God doesn’t accept that. He doesn’t say, “That’s just the way you are, eh? Well, okay, we’ll just work around that.” No, God seeks a total overhaul. And the question is, Are you going to continue to work against Him by making excuses? Or are you going to say, “God, if You’re an inside guy, then I want to be an inside guy. I want to be a part of what You are doing in me”?

God has the power to change who you are on the inside. Eventually these changes make their way into your behaviour. I’m not talking about imitating Jesus or asking, “What would Jesus do?” No, I’m not talking about a “do” thing at all. I’m talking about a “be” thing. And inside you is the potential to be what and who God wants you to be. Only then will you be able to do what He wants you to do. And it happens only because God is in you working and working and working. 

You Shall Commit Adultery!

The Bible states “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). However, an amazing and true fact is the in the 1631 edition of the King James Version of the Bible, the word not was omitted from the seventh commandment. The omission made the commandment read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This edition became known as “the wicked Bible.” Let’s hear it for proofreaders!

Today an appalling number of people – including believers – behave as if this rendering were not a mistake. Dependable statistics on how many married people commit adultery are notoriously elusive, but most surveys show a rate of 30 to 60 percent. Adultery, as defined by the Old Testament, is consensual sexual intercourse between a married woman with a man who is not her husband or a married man with a woman who is not his wife. It is therefore a crime against marriage.

Jesus, however, makes a sobering extension to this commandment. In the New Testament he teaches that lust is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). As with the preceding commandment about murder, where we can ‘murder’ someone in our heart, we are put on notice that the commandment is being redefined by the Lord and includes much more than the physical act. It’s more difficult to avoid guilt than we thought.

The Bible makes a point of distinguishing between sexual desire and lust. The first is no sin at all, but part of God’s plan for humanity; lust, on the other hand, is twisted and misplaced desire. It exists because of human depravity. The seventh commandment recognizes that lust and adultery destroy people, their relationship with one another, and their fellowship with God.

Recreational, impulsive sex is considered the norm in our troubled culture. Defending the seventh commandment against the modern world singles one out as a pious puritan stuck in a lost century. However, when we strip sexuality of the restraints God gave it, we create chaos that tears at the very fabric of society. And we place an obstacle that blocks the fellowship God wants to have with us.

God gives us this commandment from love. He is saying, “My child, sexuality is My gift to you. I want you to know that when it’s rightly used, it can bring you joy and intimacy with the spouse I gave you, and it can create a legacy of children to replenish the earth.

“But when it’s wrongly used, it can create absolute havoc. It will destroy you from the inside out, and it will injure people who love you. I love your children, and I don’t want them to suffer because you marriage has failed. I don’t want you to spend the balance of your life in deep regret over the damage and heartbreak that was your return for the impulse of a moment.

“I love you, and I know what will make you happy. Sexual ‘liberation’ is really one more brand of enslavement. It advertises thrills and delivers grief. A long and faithful marriage to your spouse will bring you peace and delight that are beyond price — and you and I will be drawn closer.”