the big IF L4L.25

SIN EDITAR

SIN EDITAR (Photo credit: angel almanzo grupo 52)

The Word

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” John 5:24 (New Living Translation)

“It’s urgent that you listen carefully  to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living.” (The Message)

I sat beside a dear friend today at Bible study and listened as she entertained the big IF.

You know it. You’ve heard it before. You may have even spoken it aloud, like my friend has, more than once. The big IF doesn’t discriminate based on denomination or age or the number of church activities you participate in. It doesn’t take into account how many times you’ve read through the Bible from cover to cover. It doesn’t care how many scripture verses you know by heart.

No, the big IF makes itself available to everyone who has ever doubted that what they’ve said and done can be forgiven by a just and righteous God.

The big IF, despite its many variations, usually sounds something like this:

IF I go to heaven when I die.”

The App

If ever there was a time to take Jesus literally, that time is today and these are those words.

Salvation is not a crap shoot and heaven is no lottery jackpot, yet we continue to play the game (if you were to die tonight – as the age-old evangelism hook goes – would you go to heaven?).

With words as clear and firm as these, spoken by Jesus, why in the world do people still sit in our pews and around the tables in our fellowship halls, allowing for the big IF? Don’t they know that Jesus came, not to condemn them, but to love and save them from their sinful selves? Don’t the spiritual leaders in their midst speak this truth – Jesus’ own words – over them in their shame-filled, doubt-ridden existence?

Whose responsibility is it to point out to those who listen to Jesus’ teachings and believe in the one, true God that eternal life is theirs ALREADY? There really is no excuse, church (shame on us!) for allowing the big IF to infiltrate the ranks of the redeemed. Every day that the great deceiver is allowed to taunt our brothers and sisters by dangling heaven in front of their imperfect lives is a day that the Body of Christ is caught taking a nap on the sofa. It’s time to wake up and crush the enemy, people. It’s time to get literal with the big IF.

If you listen to Jesus’ message,

If you believe in the God Who sent His Son to live among us AS one of us,

YOU WILL NEVER BE CONDEMNED FOR YOUR SINS!

YOU HAVE ALREADY PASSED FROM DEATH INTO LIFE!

There is no IF I go to heaven about it, because your open heart and belief in God have already marked your entrance into eternity.

If we aren’t sure that God is saving a place for us in heaven, the problem isn’t that we haven’t done enough or said enough or jumped through the proper hoops in the prescribed order… the problem is that we aren’t taking Jesus seriously.

If we live our lives in a state of perpetual timidity, tentative and failing to embrace our Kingdom standing, how then can our lives bear the fruit they were designed to produce?

Believe the words of Jesus!

Align yourself with God!

Take a giant step away from the big IF and into the land of the living!

It’s high time we stop tip-toeing around the big IF and instead choose to live boldly into the reality of our eternal life, armed with nothing less than the assurances of Jesus Himself.

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A Mind-Blowing Promise L4L.18

Praying handsThe WORD

Jesus answered, “I assure you that if you believe and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I have done to this fig tree. And not only this, but you will even be able to say to this hill, ‘Get up and throw yourself in the sea,’ and it will. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:21-22 (The Good News Translation)

Jesus is speaking to His disciples, who are dumbfounded by Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree and the speed at which it withered up at His words. This band of imperfect followers, though rarely speechless, had to be living in a constant state of the mind-just-blown.

Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.” (New Living Translation)

I’ve got to come clean with you today. I’ve been avoiding this text on our Literal 4 Lent adventure. Like the disciples who were daily witnesses to the wonders and signs of their Rabbi, this text has always blown my mind. It seems, at first glance, too good to be true.

If Jesus meant what He said on that day, why in the world are our churches filled with mousy Christians whose prayers seem to fall to the ground rather than receive the holy audience Jesus promises here?

If Jesus was serious, and yet our prayers continually fail to birth Spirit activity, where is the breakdown? Where is the disconnect?

Where are the answers we’ve been waiting for?

The APP

Chuck Smith, in his commentary on this scene from Jesus’ ministry, calls this “a very broad promise for prayer.”  He goes on to remind us that Jesus’ audience beside the withered fig tree was not the general population, not the crowds, not the 5,000. Jesus’ listeners were His inner circle, His students, His disciples. And we know what Jesus says about what it takes to be His disciple, right?

“Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Smith goes on to say that “the purpose of prayer isn’t really to get my will done; the purpose of prayer is to get God’s will done. And that person who is a disciple, the person who has denied himself to take up his cross to follow Jesus Christ, is more concerned in God’s will, than he is his own will. And that man has power in prayer and this promise is for that man. It’s not a general promise to anybody.”

Which leads us to ask ourselves today: Am I that man?

The one who has walked away from self? The one who seeks no higher goal than to see God’s will and work be done here on earth – among the salt of the earth – as in heaven? Have I so totally sold out to the Gospel that my own selfish desires have been crucified on the cross I now haul around on my back?

Do I have a literal faith in the power of God and in the reality of every one of His great promises?

If we can be totally honest with ourselves, we may very well have to say ‘no’ to those questions. If our own comfort and agendas drive our prayer life, we can rest today in the knowledge of what it’s going to take for our prayers to result in God-action. We know what our APP is today if we want to be His disciples.

But what if I’m feeling like I AM that man? What if I do believe that God can do what He says He can do, and that every promise in His Word is absolutely, positively TRUE? What if, in spite of that believing, I still don’t see trees shrivel up and die at my command? What’s up with THAT?

It’s one thing to believe. It’s quite another to pray believing prayers.

It’s one thing to have faith. It’s quite another to faithfully pray, especially for things that we know God desires.

Why would we need to pray those kinds of prayers? Won’t God do His will without our asking? Isn’t He going to do what He’s going to do, with or without my involvement?

If this is you, I feel like Jesus is reaching out to you today because He really wants you to ask. He wants you to pray. He wants you to want to engage in conversation with Him about the holy. About what makes His heart beat. About what makes His heart break.

Prayer, for our God, isn’t a means to an end – a way to get what we want, even if what we truly want is in line with His will.

Prayer is where we connect with His heart and plug into His powerful Spirit.

Prayer is where sparks fly and relationship happens.

Prayer is where minds are blown and the Good News takes on flesh and walks right out the door, into our very own homes.

Into our very own lives.

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Smith, Chuck. “Matthew 20-22.” The Word for Today. Blue Letter Bible. 1 Jun 2005. 2011. 7 Apr 2011.
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