The Source

I wish I had counted the number of people who approached our son simply to say “thank you.” Completing his MBA studies, Matthew was honored to speak at his pre-commencement ceremony. He warmly recalled the shared closeness among his classmates and the care they exhibited toward each other. Then he offered his friends three charges, the first of which was this: find the source of your love. “We cannot give and give indefinitely without having a source from which we receive love; we will burn out. My source of love comes from my faith—I follow Jesus Christ who loves me so much that he died for me even though I do not deserve it. That is a source that will never run dry.” Matthew did not anticipate the applause that followed, and his parents were struck by the appreciation expressed by both friends and strangers later at the reception. His comments had found their home in welcoming souls that day.

It was Jesus’ friend, John, who taught of our union with God in Christ, the most loving provision of Him who is love by His very essence. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,” wrote the apostle, “God lives in him and he in God.” This is the heart of God toward us, evidenced through the Spirit of God within us. How could we become any closer to Him, or He to us? What could He possibly do that would be any more loving than to unite us with Himself in Spirit?

We marvel at God’s promises—in this case, the assurance of His Spirit alive in us—yet truth always travels with a companion command, an imperative, a call to respond. John continued, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” For as God loves us and unites us to Himself, so we are called to love others as ourselves. Truth be told, however, on our own, we’re not all that good at loving others, for our human nature falls far short of the nature of God. So John says to us “know and rely.” To which I say, thank you, John. For when I simply accept God’s love for me, I experience an inner freedom: the onetime pressure to love gives way to a newfound desire to love, and what I once considered a demanding obligation to love becomes a welcome opportunity to love.

Recalling Christ Jesus before him, John says, “love one another.” Relying on Christ Jesus within him, John says, “We love because he first loved us.”

Yes, Matthew, He is, indeed, our source.

Father, grace me to know your love—to accept and experience it in faith—and to rely on your love as, living in the Spirit of Christ, I engage the world today. Amen.

[Click here to read 1 John 4:7-21, John’s insights into true love.]

Before Christ

Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m guessing that, every once in a while, you stop and reflect on the change God has brought about in you since you entrusted your life to His Son. The transforming work of the Spirit in us is beyond remarkable, and we can neither plan nor explain the inner wonders He performs in silence. We can only marvel at Him.

Yet I think it is equally important to consider the work God did in and around us before we came to believe in Christ Jesus. How many people did He send our way with the message of salvation and life? I think of Dave and Barb, Gary and Sue, Pat, and countless others. How did He spare us from catastrophe, or how did He sustain us through it? Personally, I recall the moment when, through a dream, God turned the sting of my father’s early death into both the assurance of his never-ending life in Christ and a hope for my own.

Reading the Biblical story of Cornelius and his family, I wonder how often they looked back on the amazing things God did in their lives before they came to a saving faith in Christ Jesus. Though “devout and God-fearing,” these Gentiles knew nothing about His sacrificial atonement or the eternal life that is found in Him, but God was working in their lives, anyway. Through a breathtaking series of visions, He called Cornelius and the apostle Peter together for one momentous occasion with two astounding outcomes—the salvation of Cornelius and his family, and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles.

God always inclines Himself toward us before we ever incline ourselves toward Him. He pursues us, He calls us, and He prepares us. Then when our hearts finally warm and open to Him, He pours His life-giving Spirit into us and saves our souls. And as God used others to reach us in our search for Him, so He blesses us to reach out to others with the life and peace that we ourselves have found in Christ. For in His time, God changes people’s “before Christ” into their “anno Domini”—their own personal “year of the Lord.”

Take a moment today to appreciate all the work God did in your life before you came to know Him through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Lord God, I remember my “before Christ” years and how you worked through so many people and events to draw me to yourself. Use me now to bring to others the hope and assurance I have found in Christ Jesus, the Savior. Amen.

[Read the story of Cornelius and his family in Acts 10.]

Restored at a Price

It was Augustine of Hippo who confessed, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find peace in you.”1 He certainly spoke for me. In fact, so restless was I one Sunday evening years ago that I called my mother to vent my frustration. “Mom, over the past ten years, I’ve prayed, read the Bible, gone to church, and begged and pleaded with God; but I’m just not getting it.” She listened patiently to my lament and then responded, “I hear you speak of God, but I don’t hear you mention Jesus.” And with so few words, she had gotten to the crux of the matter.

“That’s a sore spot with me,” I replied, “I know the Bible teaches salvation comes through Jesus’ death and resurrection, but I don’t understand why. Why all the drama? Why couldn’t He have just clicked his heels together three times and that be good enough?” (It somehow seemed like a plausible alternative at the time.) Now my mother had been a Bethel Bible Series teacher, and so she summarized the two-year course for me in about five minutes! She shared Leviticus 17:11, where God made it clear that “. . . the life of the creature is in the blood . . . it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” In other words, it takes one life to redeem another life lost.

Then, pulling it all together, Mom said, “In the Old Testament, it was the blood of bulls and goats that was shed for atonement, but that was only a foreshadowing of what was to come. After all, how many goats are you worth? Only God’s life is able to save our life, which was made in His image. Jesus sacrificed His perfect life to pay for our imperfect ones.”

At the heart of redemption is this: Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.”2 We are so treasured and He loves us that much! For life, which is sacred, costs life that is sacred. No other currency spends in the Kingdom of God. No other funds are sufficient. Jesus’ blood—Jesus’ life—is required and nothing less.

Everything clicked. After saying our goodbyes and hanging up the phone, I went to my room, knelt beside my bed, and entrusted my life to Jesus and His payment for my sins.

And, redeemed, I have rested well.

[Read today’s Scripture in Hebrews 2:14-18.]

1 Augustine, Saint Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, trans. Rex Warner. (New York: The New American Library, 1963), 17.
2 Titus 2:14

This post is taken from Christ in Me. Copyright © 2016 Paul Nordman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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