Monday, December 21, 2009

The Gift of Life

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Life is the fourth gift we receive this Christmas from the words in John 3:16.

God provided the gift of life through Jesus, but just like all the other gifts, it is our choice whether or not we accept the gift.

I get frustrated at times when I hear about all the many people and religions that believe that works gets them into heaven, or sacrifices make them seem more appealing to God, or that they are closer to being accepted by God because of the people they have helped, or the churches they have served in.

I understand that everyone has a right to practice whatever religion they choose, however, what I do not understand, is how one can distort the information that comes out of Gods Word in such a way that it meets their own expectations? Or how they can believe in parts of the Bible and incorporate those parts into their religion, and leave out other parts. How does one become so confused about the truths found in Gods Word? How does one who may have formerly been a Christian, suddenly decide the Bible is no longer true, and begins to allow doubt to overtake what they know to be true?

Unfortunately, people do all of those things at times, and the saddest part is that it leads them down a path of confusion, exhaustion, and frustration because they will never feel as if they are good enough for God, and they will always feel like something is missing. But thank goodness, that God knew we would get misguided, and He made it clear what it takes to recieve the gift of life.

John 6:28-29 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

This verse clarifies what God meant when He promised life, and what He expects of us. He did not say that we had to read the Bible through six times, that we had to serve on four committees at church, that we had to always make good choices, or that we should never sin. He did not outline specific ways to make Him love us, or guidelines for getting into heaven.

He said simply, "BELIEVE", and you will receive life.

We are given life, not because we try to please God, but because we trust God; not because we are deserving, but because we are accepted by grace; and not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

Nothing we can do - makes us deserving of that grace - only our faith - our belief in who God is, and that His Word rings true - every Word, not just the ones we like.

Max Lucado once said, “Religion is man’s attempt to please God. Grace is God reaching down to man.”

You see, religion is based on do’s, but salvation is based on done. The payment for our sin has been paid, and grace is Gods love in action. That grace is what grants us life, not our efforts; belief, not works.

I came across an article on the internet recently about how to find the meaning of life. The topic grabbed my attention, but as I read the words, my heart sank, as I thought of the countless people who would read this article and believe that there was any truth in it. The article said this:

"The meaning of life is not found in nouns that describes places or things. It is not found in adjectives that describe experiences. Rather it is found in verbs of action. As the master of your own destiny you have free will. Even if your belief system is religion-based, free will is still an integral part of that belief - the basis of good and evil deeds. Therefore, no matter what your belief system, it's what you do with you life that determines its ultimate meaning.

There are many roads that can be taken in determining your life's course and its meaning. We have found four elements that act as our life's compass and guide us in whatever we do. We hope they have as profound an impact in guiding your life as they have had on ours. Click on each to learn more. LIVE - LEARN - LOVE - LAUGH."

What???!!!! Seriously? All we have to do to have life long happiness is breathe, think, spend time with people and go see a comedy show? I know that what we do with our life is important, but will we ever feel like we are doing enough if we are basing our worth on our own efforts?

Also, if I am truly the master of my own destiny, then I am going to start shaking in my shoes right now, because that is far too big a job for this girl, and I promise you, the ending would not be pretty.

And if what I do in life is truly the determining factor for whether or not my life has eternal meaning and significance, then I am already doomed.

What a huge weight to bear, for those who really buy into that self-motivated, self-prophesied, self-fulfilling, and self-defeating concept of how to be happy in life. This article says nothing about eternal life, which implies that it does not matter, because life is all about the here and now, our thoughts, our actions, our free will - not the future of where our souls will spend eternity.

If you think about it, looking for fulfillment in life outside of God is like trying to save ourselves from drowning. Think about how someone acts when they are drowning - kicking, screaming, bobbing up and down in the water, gasping for breath, frantically grasping for anything to hold on to, but nothing can be found. Nobody can save themselves from drowning, they desperately need help.

The rules of a lifeguard are to wait until a drowning person nearly surrenders before attempting to save them. The strength and fervor of the person drowning is so strong, that they can pull the lifeguard down with them, while everything in their body is fighting for life. The truth is, even though it sounds harsh, is that until the drowning person calms down, gives in, and surrenders to to the help of the one trying to save them, they will perish.

The same scenario can apply to our life. While we are fighting life on our own, grasping for help and guidance in all the wrong places, we are like that person drowning in the water. Helpless. Frantic. Panicked. Confused. Hopeless. Desperate for someone to reach down and help us get our heads above water.

But God - sent His son to save us. He sent Him to pull us back up. To give us life. And He is reaching down to save us, but we have to reach up first.

As Jesus hung on that cross centuries ago, he was taunted and mocked by the crowd. He was laughed at and spit at. They harassed Him, and yelled up to Him, as told in Mark 15:30 saying “come down from the cross and save yourself!"

Jesus could easily have called a thousand angels to His side. But Jesus did not come to save himself, He came to save you, and me.

He gave His life, for our lives. That is why He is called the Savior. The One who saves.

Recently, someone was telling me a true story about a family who had experienced tragic loss. A husband and wife and their ten year old son were involved a fatal car accident. The husband perished, and the wife and son were critically injured. The wife recovered and was released from the hospital, but stayed there for weeks with her son who was in a coma.

On one glorious day, the little boy awoke. His condition improved and he began talking. One of the first things he said to his mommy, was that he had seen Jesus while he was asleep, and that he had also seen his daddy in heaven.

The mothers eyes filled with huge tears. She shuddered to think how close her son had possibly come to death, but she also wondered if he was really just dreaming....until he asked her why she had never told him about his little brother.

The mothers face went white as she asked what he meant. You see, this mother had experienced a late miscarriage before she got pregnant with her current son, but she had never told him. But her son vividly explained how he had met his little brother in heaven, with his daddy, and with Jesus. He wanted to get closer to them, but they said he needed to be home with his mother, and it was not his time to be there.

I cannot stop thinking about that story. It was not made up, it was not fictional, it was not just another feel-good story. It was real. This little boy saw Jesus, with his little eyes, and lives to tell of that experience. I cannot even being to imagine how God will use Him throughout His lifetime and how this experience will impact his heart forever.

We cannot see Jesus with our eyes, but friend, Jesus is alive. He is real. He is there for you and for me. He is living in eternity, preparing a place for us. He is holding the ones we love that we have lost. He blesses us with life on earth, and promises us eternal life with Him.

He gave us this gift of life, through His life, and if you have never opened and embraced this gift of life, what better time to accept it, than at Christmas, when we are celebrating the most precious of gifts.

If you have accepted this gift in the past, treasure it today. Remember to unwrap it day after day, and allow His peace and love to saturate your heart.

If you used to treasure this gift in your heart, but life has pulled you away from God, He is still waiting for you to open the gift again, and embrace it.

And lastly, this gift is too wonderful to keep to ourselves. It is a gift worthy of re-gifting. :) Pass it along this Christmas, and help someone else discover the gift of life. Embrace the joy that comes as you see someones eyes being opened to look into the face of Jesus for the very first time.

The Gift of LifeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Anders Branderud said...

Hello Tracie Miles! You quoted Joh 3:16, and I want to comment about that.

(le-havdil) How to live in order to enable the Creator in His loving kindness to provide His foregivness is outlined in Tan’’kh ( the Jewish Bible) ; and was also taught by the first century Ribi Yehoshua from Nazareth (the Mashiakh; the Messiah) (His teachings are found here: Netzarim.)

Tan’’kh – for example Yekhëzqeil (Hezekiel) 18 – promises foregivness to those who do their sincerest to keep the mitzwot (commandments) in Torah. The Creator cannot lie and He does not change (Malakhi 3:6)! According to Tehilim (“Psalms”) 103 the Creator gives His foregivness to those who do their sincerest to keep His berit (“covenant”; the pre-conditions to be included in the berit is according to the Jewish Bible to do ones sincerest to keep Torah). No human can keep Torah perfectly. There is a provision. Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh lived and kept Torah with the sincerest of his heart, died innocently and became a sacrifice. Because of this the Creator can give His foregiveness to everyone doing his/her sincerest to keep His instructions found in Torah.

The NT-view of foregiveness is not in accordance with what I wrote above.

All the best, Anders Branderud

Anonymous said...

I am God's child (John 1:12)
I am Christ's friend (John 15:15 )
I am united with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17)
I am bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20)
I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)
I am a personal witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8)
I am the salt & light of the earth (Matt 5:13-14)
I am a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27)
I am free forever from condemnation ( Rom. 8: 1-2)
I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant (Phil 3 :20)
I am free from any charge against me (Rom. 8:31 -34)
I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)
I have access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:18)
I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6)
I cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39)
I am established, anointed, sealed by God (2 Cor 1:21-22 )
I am assured all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28 )
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16 )
I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3: 12 )
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13 )
I am the branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15: 1-5)
I am God's temple (1 Cor. 3: 16). I am complete in Christ (Col. 2: 10)
I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).. I have been justified (Romans 5:1)
I am God's co-worker (1 Cor. 3:9; 2 Cor 6:1). I am God's workmanship (Eph. 2:10)
I am confident that the good works God has begun in me will be perfected. (Phil. 1: 5)
I have been redeemed and forgiven ( Col 1:14). I have been adopted as God's child (Eph 1:5)
I belong to God
Do you know
Who you are?

Keep this bell ringing...pass it on
'The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you;
The LORD turn His face toward you
And give you peace...
Numbers 6:24-26

God Bless Each and Everyone of YOU.

Tracie Miles said...

Dear Mr. Anders,

Thank you for visiting my blog and for taking time to comment. While I value your right to believe as you do and commend your desire to be obedient to God and walk with Him, I cannot agree with your conclusion that the way of salvation is to “sincerely keep the Torah.” I understand that you do not accept the New Testament as from God so I will answer you from the Old Testament.

Genesis 15:6 says, that Abraham “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Abraham was given righteousness by God because of Abraham’s faith.

Ezekiel 33:12 says,“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’”

A person must have a righteousness that is given to him apart from his own by God, through faith in Jesus Christ.

While I respect your opinion, we will have to agree to disagree on this matter, but I will pray that you will come to understand that Jesus, not ourselves, is the only way to heaven.

Here’s a link to a John MacArthur sermon on this subject that might be helpful.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

My dear Tracie,

"The Gift of Life"

I so much want this for all of us. After reading this post. I spent my afternoon in his word. So much was put before me.

Peace is so much what I am after here on earth. I want this for all. May I give you a glimpse of understanding of why some think you need works also.

James 2:14-26
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called "the friend by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 3:13-18
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the huility that comes from wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. Wisdom of this kind does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.

Tracie...Peace on earth good will towards men.

Sisters in Christ,