As we focus on the Love Avenue and our theme, Compelled by Love, there are three questions each one of us needs to address.
There is a lot of enthusiasm in GCI as we focus on the Love Avenue and reaching out to our neighbors and friends, but there are also a lot of questions. How do we do this? Why are we doing this? Is this really our calling? What can my little group do? What does this mean for me and my personal life? I submit these questions are mostly addressed when we answer the three main questions for every Christian. Who is Jesus? Who am I in relation to Jesus? Who are others in relation to Jesus? The answer to these questions gives us the Why of the Love Avenue and our participation with Jesus.
Who is Jesus?
It seems such a simple question with an obvious answer. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. He is the one to whom has been given all power and authority on heaven and on earth. He is the one who promises to be with us always, even to the ends of the age. But what does this mean? What does knowing who Jesus is have to do with the Love Avenue? And where do you start? Depending on how you count them, you can come up with more than 135 names and titles of Jesus – each one of them important. Your priority list may differ from mine but let me share the titles that help me focus on the Love Avenue and my part in it.
- The Savior: Jesus is the savior of the world. I used to believe that Jesus came to just save a few. But that’s not what Scripture tells us. The Bible tells us Jesus is the savior of the world (John 4:42; John 3:16-17; 1 John 4:14; Luke 19:10; Luke 2:11; 1 Timothy 4:10) who came for all. For years I struggled with the concept that God came for all until I was asked by a good friend and mentor, “Who specifically did he NOT come to save?” That question stopped me in my tracks. Is there someone, or a group of people I believe Jesus did not come to save? Perhaps it’s people who believe differently than me, or who look differently than me, or who have a different lifestyle than me, or who are deceived differently than me. Jesus is the one and only Savior for all who needed to be saved—and that includes everyone.
- The One who forgives: Jesus is the one atonement for all sin. When Jesus was on the cross and said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” who was he referring to? Who was the “they” he prayed for? The Roman soldiers? Caesar? Pilate? The Sadducees and Pharisees? The crowd calling out against him? The disciples? His family? The rest of the crowd? Yes! Yes to all. Again, a long time ago I was asked the question, “When Jesus said Father forgive them, who did he exclude?” Jesus never said, “Father forgive all but….” Paul reminds us that ALL have sinned, and the same ALL have been forgiven. Some believe and live in that forgiveness; some don’t believe and still live in the misery of their guilt and shame.
The Bible tells us Jesus became our sin. He became the propitiation—the appeasement or satisfaction—of our sins by his blood (Romans 3:24-25). This is the heart of the gospel message; our sins have been removed because we have been forgiven. We are no longer dead in our sin because we’ve been made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2). Jesus is our redeemer – the one who pays the ransom for us (John 1:29; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 2:2). He paid the penalty for our sins, and because of that we walk forgiven – in the freedom of his mercy and grace.
- The Reconciler: Sin made humanity feel guilty and it was easy to fall for the lie that God was mad at us, turned his back on us and would not – indeed could not – be in the presence of evil. I heard this lie preached for years. One variation might be, since we have all sinned and fallen short God cannot love us. Another states that because of sin and the fall of humanity, God had to turn away and we were all subject to his wrath. Books have been written about God’s wrath and God’s anger, and how sinners would be dealt with in the hands of an angry God. False teachings about ever-burning infernos in different levels of hell and eternal torment have scared millions into believing God is enraged and looking for ways to dispense his wrath. The idea that a holy God cannot be in the presence of sin and evil have made many give up, believing God has already rejected them or that their sin is too much for God to forgive.
Jesus came to reconcile us to God by revealing his true nature. God has often dwelled in the presence of evil. The Bible tells that Lucifer and a host of angels rebelled among the heavenly hosts. Since God is not in a given place, and there is no place he is not, this rebellion was in his presence. He dwelt in the midst of the camp of Israel – among sinners. Jesus, who is God in the flesh, came to live among sinners. The Holy Spirit lives in you as he turns your heart to repentance to see God as Father, Jesus as Lord, and the Holy Spirit as teacher and comforter.
God hates evil because of what it does to us, but he does not hate those who have been deceived by evil. He is not afraid of it, doesn’t have to run from it, and certainly does not lash out at his beloved because of their sin. He is our Father, our Abba (loosely translated as Papa). He loves us enough to send his Son to us so we can be redeemed, so we can see our value, so we can be forgiven and experience his love. Jesus came so we could be reconciled to God – so we could see we are adopted, cared for, loved and included in the communion shared by Father, Son and Spirit.
Who am I in relation to Jesus?
The answer is simple and profound. I am saved. I am forgiven. I am reconciled. I am a unique expression of God’s love. I am known by God. I am rescued. I am born again. I am adopted. I am a reflection of Jesus. I am called a masterpiece. I am bought with a price. I am free. I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly realms. I am a co-heir with Christ. I am a beloved child of the Father. I am the brother of Jesus. I am accepted. I am the friend of Jesus. I am the image of God. I am holy and blameless in him. I am chosen. I am redeemed. I’ve been justified. I’ve been sanctified. I am a citizen of heaven. I am a child of the promise. I am a new creation. I am loved.
As a result, I live and walk in a freedom not known by too many. I walk in confidence, knowing my future is sure. I have been invited to participate with him in seeking and saving the lost. I’ve been invited to join him in fulfilling the Great Commission – realizing I am working alongside the one who has been given all power and authority on heaven and earth, and that he will be with me always. Because I know his work is good and will be fulfilled, and because I know I am a citizen of his kingdom, I have permission to not get as caught up in the evils in this world because I know there is only one solution, and he is already in charge. I can’t fix the political mess; I can’t fix social injustice; I can’t fix or stop hate; but I know the one who can. I will follow him as he leads me. I will love because he loves.
Who are others in relation to Jesus?
Again the answer is simple and profound. They are saved, they are forgiven, they are reconciled. The sad truth is many don’t know this yet. They live in darkness because they haven’t been brought into the light. Jesus invites us to bring them into the light. He invites us to reveal the truth of who they are and help them leave shame and guilt behind. He invites us to help them understand they are loved, they are worthy, they are valued. He invites us to stand beside those who are hurting and give them comfort. He invites us to stand up for those who are mistreated because they need to know they are valued. He invites us to see others as he sees them, to see his love and compassion for them and then act accordingly. Because we know Jesus, we want others to know him as well. We want them to live in the truth of who they were created to be. We are compelled by love to love others. This is the foundation of the Love Avenue.
Jesus, help me share your love,