God’s Answer for Anxiety

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

How am I going to pay all of my bills this month?  What if I lose my job?  What if the biopsy results say I have cancer?  What if something bad happens to my children or spouse?  Will this economy ever turn around?

Questions like these plague our minds, and can become overwhelming.  Anxiety and depression have reached an all-time high as the economy continues to be unstable and relationships continue to crumble.  Facing each day can seem like an insurmountable mountain if our focus is on circumstances, and not on our God.

There is a defense for anxiety.  Many would call it too simplistic…too idealistic for the problems of the world.  It is these two words:  thank you.  Many of us bring our requests to God, begging Him to help us in the midst of tough circumstances.  But, do we say “thank you?”  It is almost impossible to worry and give thanks at the same time.

If you are alive, reading this, you have much to be thankful for, regardless of circumstances.  Who gave you life this morning?  Who keeps your heart beating and lungs breathing throughout this day?  Who provided the clothes you wear, the food you will eat today or the clean water you will drink?  Who caused the sun to rise, giving life to the earth?  Who sends rain to water the plants so that life can flourish today?

Most importantly, Who has provided His Son as a sacrifice for our sins?  God’s extravagant grace is everywhere at all times.  But we must choose to see it.  God wants us to come to Him with our problems, but He also wants us to say thank you.  And when we do, an incredible transaction happens.  Anxiety is exchanged for peace…God’s peace.

This is a choice we have every day.  Will I continue to worry about things that may or may not happen, or will I choose to live in this moment and see all that God has given and to be grateful?

Lord Jesus, thank You for all of the good gifts that You give each day.  Please forgive me for being ungrateful for Your grace and mercy.  Please take away my anxiety and give me a spirit of thanksgiving as I go through this day.  Amen. 

Questions

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our sins; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  Isaiah 53:5-6

Pierced…crushed…punished…wounded…who could have known that God’s sovereign plan would lead to those atrocities against His own Son?  Jesus was not a victim.  He was a willing participant in God’s plan to redeem those He created for His glory.  From Eve who first tasted sin and its consequences to those who drove the nails in His sinless hands – and for everyone in between and hereafter – that horrific day was necessary to satisfy the righteous, vengeful wrath of a holy God.

In God’s wisdom He created man.  In His justice He gave Adam a choice.  And in His love that He gave us Immanuel – God with us.  He who penned all of human history entered His own story.  The Word became flesh.  God knew every detail of what that decision would entail.  The Creator had a choice; but He chose life, even though it meant death.  And His desire is that each of us would do the same…choose life in His Son even though it means death to ourselves.

It is hard not to wonder why He would do such a thing.  If He knew, “The end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10), why even say, “Let there be light”?  Why start the whole mess in the first place?  Have you ever wondered?  If you have come to understand your sinfulness and God’s holiness, you have likely pondered this question.  I, however, would like to pose another question.  Are you living the life Christ died to give you?

Considering what Christ endured, what the Father sacrificed, and what countless saints throughout the ages have died proclaiming, is the life you are living a display of His glory, goodness and grace?  Is it joy-filled and abundant?  Do you hate sin and love truth?  Are you sacrificing for the spread of the Gospel?  Are you grateful, humble and kind?

I believe these are questions worthy of our thought and conversation.  God isn’t interested in us understanding the “why” of His unfathomable plan.  He is, however, greatly concerned with how we live today.  Right now, this day, is God pleased with your life?  This doesn’t mean a perfect life; but it does mean a passionate pursuit of Christ.

 

Loving Father, I praise You for the sacrifice of Your Son.  I will never fully know what He endured on the cross for my sins…but I do know I was the one who deserved Your wrath.  I pray that each day I will grow deeper in faith and dependence on Your Spirit so that my life glorifies Your Son.  It is in His name, Jesus Christ, that I pray, Amen.

The Ransom

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.”      1 Timothy 2:5-6

Ransom – What is given in exchange for another as the price of his redemption.

Salvation is not free.  Redemption had a cost.  We tend to forget that because we are not the ones who paid the price.  Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.  Much like the jobs most of us do each day, sin earns a wage, a payment.  The wage that sin pays is death.  And we have all been swallowed in debt.

Eternal life, therefore, is a gift.  By definition, salvation cannot be a gift unless it is paid for.  When someone gives you a birthday gift, it is not free…it is only free to you.  The gift is purchased…paid for by the giver.  Someone chooses to pay what he does not owe, not to keep the gift for him, but to give it to you.  It is Jesus who paid our ransom.

The first choice to rebel against God earns sin’s wage.  At that moment, the sinner is spiritually kidnapped…and death is inevitable.  Not just physical death, but spiritual death.  Enmity with God is instantaneous.  Sin holds us hostage, demanding the ultimate ransom…death.

It is an impossible situation.  There is no negotiation, no compromise to be made.  The ransom must be paid…and the sinner cannot pay it.  The only hope is a mediator…one who can stand between God Almighty and the sinner.  There is no one worthy.  For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  There is only one choice…but how can it be?

Then, one starry night the shepherds got the Good News.  In the city of David, the Mediator was born – He is Christ the Lord.  Angels rejoiced and shepherds worshiped.   Wise men traveled and earthly kings plotted.  Hope was born in a stable that night.  Hope of reconciliation and freedom.  Hope of life.

And 33 years later, the Mediator hung naked on the cross of our shame.  He suffered and died in our place.  He gave Himself as a ransom for our freedom.  And now the gift of eternal life is offered freely for any who will believe, surrender and follow.

 

Dear Jesus, Thank You for offering Your life to set me free.  You were and are my only hope for escape from sin’s penalty and sin’s power.  I need You today as much as I ever have.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Christ Alone

“But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”  Philippians 3:7-8

It’s easy to say we believe that Christ is the most important person in our lives…but if we truly believe that He is the only worthy pursuit, why do we chase after other things?  This is a question I am pondering in my own life.  The only answer I can come up with is that our eyes haven’t been opened to see His greatness.  Why is that?

The sad truth is that the Jesus that is preached today is often so uncaptivating, that countless believers are enthralled with other things.  Once our eyes are opened to see the incredible richness and beauty of Jesus, either our other pursuits will take a backseat, or we will rediscover them in the light of His glory.  Paul was a man who met Jesus on the road to Damascus and through physical blindness; his spiritual eyes were opened to the rich glory of Christ.  His words in Philippians 3:7-8 illustrate this truth.

Paul’s goal in his letter to the Colossians was to strip away every distraction that was being held before their eyes & leave them with nothing but Jesus.  At that time they were facing some false teachings, especially about the supremacy of Christ.  Paul believed if they could just get a glimpse of the glories of Christ, He would be enough.  The same is true today.  I believe that God wants His Church to exalt Christ.  If we do, God will show us, or remind us, of the all-encompassing beauty of His Son Jesus.

Look at what God said to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for My name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”  Revelation 2:2-4

God is affirming the church for their perseverance and suffering.  He commends them for not allowing false doctrine.  But then He rebukes them.  In their zeal for correct theology and their hard work for God, they lost their “first love”, Jesus Christ, and the supremacy of loving Him and Him alone.

So I ask…in your striving to be faithful, to persevere, to make a difference, to serve God…have you lost the love you first had for Jesus and the supremacy of loving Him above all else?  You may obey Christ, but do you also adore Christ?  Do you live for His sake and nothing else?  My prayer is that we will all be able to say that our hearts are fixed on Jesus and Jesus alone.

Father, Thank You for Your Son, Jesus.  Thank You for sending Him as a sacrifice for my sins, and as an example of how to follow You and serve others.  Please strip away every distraction in my life so that my heart is fixed on Him alone.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  

 

 

Enjoying Christ

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews 1:3

If you ask most people if they believe God loves them, they would probably say “yes.”  1 John 4:16 says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”  But I wonder, have we mis-defined God’s love?  God’s love came not in the form of an abstract principle, but as a Person.  The center of the Christian life is the person of Christ.  All else is eclipsed by His infinite worth.

God put an image in His creation to demonstrate this truth…the sun.  The sun is the center of all life on earth.  Without the sun, there is no life.  Christ isn’t just found in the center of our lives, but in the corners & edges (just like the light of the sun hits all of the planet).  Knowing Christ profoundly and in reality is the chief pursuit of the Christian’s life.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism says: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  John Piper said it might be more accurate to say: “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.”

To know Christ is to enjoy Christ.  But we tend to know a lot about Him, with little enjoyment of Him.  Don’t you think He wants to be enjoyed?  I do.  Out of knowing Him we will come to love, adore, proclaim and manifest Him.  God is preeminently concerned with us knowing Christ.  Why?  Because to know Christ is to know God, since He has revealed Himself in His Son.  Can we get any closer to the heart of God than knowing the One on Whom God’s heart is fixed?

God is not about repairing what has gone wrong in our lives as much as He is about finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ. According to Scripture, Jesus Christ – not a doctrine about Him – is The Truth.  And Jesus Christ – not a moral code from His teachings – is the Way.  God’s truth and God’s way are a living, breathing person – Jesus.

No matter what life may bring, Jesus will always be enough.  There is no darkness He cannot penetrate, no wound He cannot heal, and no hole He cannot fill.  Do you know God through His Son, Jesus?  If so, how have you enjoyed Him today?

Father, You have revealed Yourself completely in Your Son.  Please forgive me for the times I substitute knowing about You for knowing You.  Teach me, Lord, how to enjoy You and know You more.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.