Whoever you are, wherever you are, you were made by God, for God. No exceptions. You were created to know Him and to love Him – personally and intimately. That is both the only true purpose and the only real fulfilment for every human being on the face of the Earth. It has always been so.
In my previous message, The Truth and the Facts, I wrote about the first man Adam, who was made in God’s image and was the crowning glory of God’s Creation. As such, he was flawless – perfect in every way. That is how Adam began. That is how the human race began. And that is your God-given heritage.
Despite the disaster that resulted from the fall of Adam – the heartbreak it caused God, and the horrendous consequences for this world and for all of humanity – God has never wavered from His original intention. Hence the enormous price He paid to redeem what He had lost when Adam and Eve chose to believe the devil instead of Him.
That price – the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross – is the most powerful affirmation that you are worth everything to God. However godless this world may be, however much the devil flaunts his power and influence within it, whatever men may do or say in their attempts to reduce God to an irrelevancy, He is still the God of the Universe – the Creator of all things.
He is also Love personified. And driven by love He paid the ultimate price so that you may not only know Him, but also love Him – personally and intimately.
Today, as in Jesus’ day, there are many who seek God to meet their personal needs, but few there are who willingly yield their lives to Him.
Jesus came into this world, suffered and died on the cross, then rose from the dead, to give back to God what He had lost in Eden. Yet that does not happen automatically. For God cannot have what Jesus died to give Him, unless individuals like you and me willingly give ourselves to Him, just as Jesus did.
Today, as in Jesus’ day, there are many who seek God to meet their personal needs, but few there are who willingly yield their lives to Him. God hears the cry of every human heart. He knows who is seeking after Him, and why. There is no personal need He cannot meet, yet my God – the Living God who gave His Son, Jesus for you – longs not only to meet your need, but that you, also, will meet His need.
But what need does the Almighty God have that He is not able to satisfy? Surely, He can have anything He wants. Yes He could …if God were an unfeeling, tyrannical deity who imposed his will on powerless human beings. But the God who is Love is not like that. Our Creator longs to live in an intimate, personal, love relationship with us, His creatures. Why? Because He has chosen to be dependent upon our choice to love Him …or not.
Some talk glibly about loving God, but true love for God is not some warm, fuzzy, feel-good religious experience. It is incredibly costly.
So long as Jesus spoke wonderful words, performed miracles, and healed multitudes, people flocked to Him. But once He began spelling out the cost and the implications of following Him, the crowd grew decidedly thinner! There is no crowd-appeal in declaring: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”.
If you were in Jerusalem in those days and saw a man carrying a cross, you knew he was on his way to his own gruesome execution. And when Jesus laid down those conditions of discipleship, He also knew He would soon be one such condemned man. Yet, when the time came, He embraced His cross – not fatalistically, nor even out of some sort of death wish, but because of His love for God and for us. Of course we know that, but what stands out starkly in His words, above, is that Jesus made no differentiation between the cost to Him and the cost to His followers.
This world is not as God intended it to be when He created it perfect and made man in His own image.
In the early days of the Christian Church, there was a young man called Saul who became the arch-enemy of all Christians – making it his personal mission to round them up, beat them up, throw them into prison and threaten them with death. In the midst of his campaign of terror – while on his way to Damascus to round up more Christians – Saul was literally stopped in his tracks when Jesus appeared to him in a most dramatic way. No less dramatic was the transformation that followed, as the vicious persecutor Saul was changed into the great apostle Paul. The man who had hated Jesus and His followers became the man who took the message of Jesus all the way to Europe, making converts wherever he went. …And it cost him everything.
Paul’s reputation – from his prestigious family lineage, to his high standing in Jewish society, his religious influence as a Pharisee, and his diligence in living by the strict religious laws of Judaism – was trashed. And what did he get in return? He became an outcast among his countrymen, a pariah in the eyes of the religious leaders. He was whipped, he was thrown into jail, and his life was constantly under threat. And all because of Jesus. Paul was very clear about what he had lost and the price he had paid to follow Jesus …and his conclusion? “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”
That man, for whom no loss was too great to bear and no cost too big to pay, wrote this to the persecuted Christians in Rome: “…I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
This world is not as God intended it to be when He created it perfect and made man in His own image. Instead of a pure work of God’s hands, it has become corrupted by Satan’s rebellion and man’s self-seeking. If you are a child of this world who has never known God, you are inevitably conformed to its pattern whether you like it or not – whether you even know it or not. You cannot resist this world’s conforming power except by God’s transforming power.
On the other hand, I know that some who are reading this do have a personal relationship with God. You know what it is to respond to His love, to receive His forgiveness and to be born of His Spirit – even to be filled with His Spirit. Yet even such wonderful experiences are not the fullness of life with God. They are only the beginning, and of themselves are no guarantee that our lives will be lived according to His will. That depends on whether or not we choose to live our lives in submission and responsiveness to God.
…because of Jesus, you have the wonderful privilege of yielding yourself completely to God, here and now.
The declaration of Jesus that each of His followers must take up their own cross; the huge price paid by the apostle Paul, and his urging to the Christians in Rome to offer themselves as living sacrifices, with minds renewed and lives transformed; these are at the core of what it really means to be one of God’s people in a godless world.
But why must it be so costly – so total? Simply because man’s ways are at enmity with God’s ways, and it is impossible to live your life for God and for yourself at the same time. If you choose such a hybrid existence (and many do) I don’t deny that you may manage to hold onto some of the benefits that came with those early responses when you first came to know Jesus. But if you live like that you will never know Him intimately, you will never be one of His true followers, He will not be glorified in your life – and when the day of reckoning comes (as it surely will) you may well hear Him say: “I never knew you.”
But why should that ever be so for you, or for anyone, when God has already given everything so that He can be your God and you can be completely His?
Not only are you worth everything to Him, but He also is worth everything to you. The devil may have usurped the human race and this world in which we live, but because of Jesus, you have the wonderful privilege of yielding yourself completely to God, here and now. Not only to receive His love, His forgiveness and His Spirit, but also to turn your back on your own self-seeking ways and, instead, offer yourself as a living sacrifice to Him …not just once, but continually.
Then, with your mind renewed, you can live free of this world’s conforming power, revelling instead in the daily miracle of God’s transforming power.