The Jesus We Love.

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I was with a group of friends a couple Saturday mornings back, all guys. It’s amazing how the question “Am I good enough” pervades each of our lives. Other ways of stating the same question are “Am I where I’m supposed to be in life? Should I have a different job? Does (insert a name) think well of me?” 

No matter how you phrase it, it boils down to a self esteem issue quite often based on what others think of us, as well as what we think of ourselves.

That’s where Jesus is so important an example to each of us, especially the guys I enjoy meeting with on Saturday mornings, and some other guys on other mornings too for that matter. (It’s easier to do since I’m retired.)

As we had our discussion this morning, my mind went to God the Father’s fantastic estimation and exclamation about Jesus when Jesus was baptized. Heaven opened up and God the Father exclaimed in a loud voice “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11[1]

On top of that, God the Holy Spirit gently came down on Jesus like a dove. Wow. What had Jesus done to deserve all that when He was about thirty years old. 

Scripture (Luke 2) mentions that when Jesus was twelve years old, He loved listening to and asking questions to the teachers in the Temple. He was missing from His parents for three days? What did He eat? Where did He sleep? Apparently, He knew how to care for Himself. I think it’s safe to assume, – I can’t prove it – He had the same inquisitiveness and love of listening to and asking questions of teachers His entire thirty years.

His answer to His parents shows that even at twelve years of age, He knew His calling. And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49 

Whatever He was doing as “His Father’s business” those first thirty years, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit really, really, divinely loved Him and were thrilled with Him, Jesus, God who became fully man through birth. Books could be written on that subject alone. Suffice it to say for purpose of this note, Jesus was fully a man as well as God and God the Father was enthralled with the man, His Son, had become. 

The point I want to make is that even though Jesus lived perfectly, He wasn’t totally perfected as a man until He completed the task His Father gave Him, namely, to rise from the dead. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18 

This was the command He received from His Father: lay down your life and 2) rise from the dead. That’s gutsy. Because Jesus did it, millions who believed in Him have done the same thing, relying on His promise. Millions more are still willing to do it. I’m sure some of the guys I meet with are willing to do it. 

I remember myself, four years after I returned from Vietnam the thought occurred to me one day, “If I was willing to die for my country, why wouldn’t I be willing to die for Christ?” It was a no-brainer for me. Sure. Why not? (Nonetheless, I struggled for year about in what fashion I was willing to die for Christ. That’s another story, too.) 

The Epistle to the Hebrews tells us “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” Hebrews 5:8-9 [Emphasis added]

I don’t think we appreciate that even though Jesus was perfect, He wasn’t perfected until he fulfilled His role as the author of our salvation by rising from the dead as His Father commanded Him.

So, for all of us that struggle with “Am I good enough”, take Jesus as an example. Throughout His life, by being obedient to His Father, His Father considered Him moment by moment perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect for roughly thirty three years. But Jesus was not considered perfecteduntil He rose from the dead. 

Put another way, for thirty three years, day by day, God the Father considered Jesus,

I’m well pleased with you, Son.

I’m well pleased with you, Son.

I’m well pleased with you, Son.

But even Jesus wasn’t finally perfected as a man until He rose from the dead. He had the courage to believe His Father gave Him the power to rise from the dead. That’s gutsy. We need to believe the same thing. By His loving power with Christ in us, we can rise from the dead.

So, while none of us is always obedient to Christ, remember that when we are, God Our Father is saying about us, “I’m well pleased with you.” When we are disobedient, He is willing to forgive us. And on that day after becoming a servant of all through and like Christ, after having picked up our cross, when we rise from the dead, we too will be perfected by the grace of God, by Christ in whom we believe and who lives in us.

If you don’t believe in Christ, join the crowd who does. Call on Him. You’ll love the challenge, the joy, the victory in Christ. Sometimes you may have more challenge than joy, but when the joy comes, there’s nothing like it and you’ll be so glad believed in Christ .


[1]All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version, Biblegateway.com

Image of Christ’s Resurrection is from the Vatican Museum. Artist Unknown.

Mutual Admiration Societies

There’s a 1956 song sung by Teresa Brewer that goes, “We belong to a mutual admiration society, my baby and me.” We all love mutual admiration societies. We want friends that think like we do. We like to laugh together. We enjoy not having our opinions challenged too vociferously.

A few months ago, St. Paul’s words from his first Epistle to the Corinthians came to mind and changed my world. “ And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There is a faith. There is a hope. Paul was sure faith and hope in Christ is the answer that assures us of life. I sincerely believe that too. But Paul tells me that above faith, above hope, the greatest is love.

In other words, Paul is saying to me, “Phil, if you really have your faith down pat, you will be an example of love to the world. Love is the proof of the genuineness and perfection of your faith.” A deep knowledge of my faith is not the perfection of faith. Love is the perfection of my faith.

If I want people to believe my faith, I’d better sincerely, kindly, openly love them first. Love, introducing people to Christ’s love, not my love, is the proof that my faith is worth living. Christ’s love, not my faith, needs to be first.

Christ exemplified this perfectly. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 Christ loved me while I preferred sin to love.

Christ wants us all to believe in Him but He didn’t just hang with people who believed in Him. He wasn’t looking for a mutual admiration society to the exclusion of others.

Both Matthew and Luke tell us Christ’s enemies called Him a friend of sinners because He dined with sinners so often. But Christ did so to capture their hearts with His love, not because He agreed with their sin.

That’s what I’ve learned. Faith isn’t first about getting people to know faith. Faith is first showing people that my faith in Christ has taught me to love others as unconditionally as Christ did. That’s the greatest and the hardest thing to do.

Christ did not come with a sword to beat us all into submission. Since He is love, He revealed His true self, Love, to everyone. His message was simple. He gives us all a choice. If you want eternal life, true eternal love, believe in Him. For people to believe in Christ, I need to come across as a kind, forgiving, accepting, understanding lover. I am learning we are called to plant the seed of love and let the Holy Spirit nurture their faith.