Make it personal!

The Gospel is something we need to experience with conviction deep in the depths of our hearts. It is not something that can be acquired with ‘head knowledge’ – it needs to touch your soul. In order to experience this you need to understand how personal the Gospel (the good news of Jesus) really is.

It is easy for us to imagine that Christ died for the whole world – but do you understand that He would have done it even if you were the ONLY person on earth? You need to realize that the salvation of the cross was meant for YOU. This mindset is not selfish – on the contrary. It will make your heart overflow with thankfulness and worship. It will convince you of God’s love for you and His character, and this in turn will make you love those around you (see post: He first loved US).

So, take a moment to realize that the full redemptive story of the cross was directed at you, specifically because God cannot contain His love for you. Realize it is infinitely more personal and close to you than you can imagine!

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray and gets lost, will he not leave the ninety- nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost? And if it should be that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety- nine that did not get lost.” Matthew 18:12-13

He first loved US

Many believers are told to make a purposeful decision to love God, and stick with it – no matter how they feel. This kind of message is not consistent with what we are told in 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:

“And so faith, hope, love abide [… love – true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:13

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him]… In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins… We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:7,10,19

According to these verses we should first get an understanding of the love that God has for us. Only then will we be able to love Him and those around us.

Love for God and our fellowmen will grow (naturally and effortlessly) from understanding God’s love for us. True love will only spring forth from our hearts if we get to know the true, overwhelmingly good character of God . The focus of the church should always be on how much God first loved us.

Once you understand this, love will flow effortlessly from your inner man.

Words of encouragement

As born-again Christians we have such a wonderful hope to cling onto in times of discouragement or sadness. Jesus changed everything – He made us completely righteous before God.  We can now confidently know the following words are true:

“In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear not, O Zion. Let not your hands sink down or be slow and listless. The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.” Zeph 3:16-17

If you ever feel sad or despondent again – remember the following facts:

  • God is rejoicing over you with joy. To rejoice means to celebrate something, to literally jump for joy.  The truth is that God feels that way about you.
  • God rests in silent satisfaction when He thinks about you. That means He is content – He is not looking for flaws or thinking of ways to improve you.
  • God exults over you with singing. That means He is elated and in high spirits because of you.

Simplicity

The Gospel does not need to be complicated in order to be powerful. On the contrary, the simpler the message – the easier it is to remember and understand.

Jesus died on the cross in order to completely forgive, set free and heal every person who believes in Him. Nothing else is necessary, only belief in this (John 6:29).

Paul said the same thing: “For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)

Look away from all complicated distractions (Heb 12:2), make Jesus your only vision, and see how this powerful simplicity will change your life.

The only gift you’ll ever need

With Christmas around the corner, people are rushing around to buy gifts for their loved ones. How many times have you received a gift that you did not really want, or need (think of that pair of green socks or that bar of unscented soap)?

God does not give reluctantly or hesitantly. He likes to go overboard when He blesses His children (also see post: More than enough). The ultimate gift that He gave mankind was His Son – Jesus. He is the only gift you will ever need, and without accepting this gift you will never truly be satisfied in life.

“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace.” Is 9:6

Jesus can mean all things to you and fulfill every need, no matter how specific it is. Whether you need a counselor to intercede for you, a mighty God to change an impossible situation, a loving father who never changes or a prince of peace who calms your soul – Jesus represents all of these persona’s and more. He is the only gift you will ever need.

To read more about the meaning of Jesus as the ultimate gift, see previous posts: God’s gift to us (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3).

Where your worth lies

“Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us. For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:37-39

Many people struggle with self confidence issues, never realizing what they are worth.  Their low self esteem is made worse by messages in the world that tell them their worth depends on their job title, how attractive they are or how much money they make. What a relief to realize that this world view is wrong! Our worth is not dependent on our own achievements – it is fully determined by the price someone is willing to pay for us.

This is where the truth needs to set you free. God decides your worth. He was willing to give up His only Son in order to purchase your freedom – a price that no human can ever comprehend. This is what you are worth. You are worth the life and blood of the perfect, blameless, innocent Son of God. I pray that you might realize the full meaning of this.

That is why Paul can confidently say that he is convinced, without a doubt, that NOTHING (death, life, angels, principalities, threats, powers, heights, depths or ANYTHING else) can separate us from the love of God. In this love lies our victory, our worth. You don’t ever have to feel you don’t measure up – your worth has already been settled without any input from your side! :-)

A God who sympathizes

Many influences in your life might have shaped the way you see God. Many people see God as a clinical God, who goes about the business of His day without much regard for us ‘lowly’ people. In a previous post I spoke about God being very near to us, not somewhere far away. In this post I want to focus on the fact that God is able to empathize with our circumstances, understanding what we are going through.

“When Jesus saw her sobbing, and the Jews who came with her [also] sobbing, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. [He chafed in spirit and sighed and was disturbed.]…Jesus wept.” John 11:33,35

Jesus did not act distant when he saw how sad Mary and the rest of the Jews were. He felt their pain and sadness, and He also wept with them. To empathize means to understand, to share or to put oneself in another one’s shoes. It denotes a deep deep emotional understanding of our feelings or problems.

“For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation.” Heb 4:15

You can know without a doubt that God understands what you are going through. He has empathy. He has a deep understanding of the feelings you experience. You are not alone! His Spirit abides in you and is your constant companion.