“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8 New International Version
What gives you hope? I don’t mean the kind of hope we usually refer to, the one with a question mark. No, I’m talking about the Hope of the New Testament, Hope as it is defined by God, the Hope that is bold, confident, sure of what God promises! If we who are in a relationship with the Creator are not able to provide a context for the who, what, when, where, why, and How of God, who will? I believe this issue walks hand in hand with John 17 describing the need for the world to see and experience God in us and through us! How is that accomplished? Jesus said it was by the willingness, the reality of His followers loving each other. No complicated formula, no “secret sauce,” simply a willingness that allows the Holy Spirit access to our hearts and minds!
So why isn’t this happening in our churches? The love that needs to be revealed by the followers of Jesus can only be realized as it is created in us by Jesus. It’s just the same with hope, it is created in us by the Holy Spirit who carries us through. We have no other way to be what Jesus wants for us and from us. If it isn’t being realized in us by the One who created us how will it become the reality we need? This is fundamental to understanding what God has desired for this world from the moment the rebellion infected this planet! As God entered the Garden of Eden He called out to Adam and Eve and asked them a question. It was a simple question, yet it was the most important question asked of two people, carrying with it God’s love. There was no need for God to ask them where they were, He knew. Then why that question? Why would the omniscient Creator need to ask where anyone was hiding? “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Genesis 3:9 New International Version
That question is what sent Jesus to the cross for all of humanity! It is the same question God asks today as He seeks to provide for us the reality of salvation! Now is the time when everything is at stake, your future, my future, everyone’s future is tied to this truth. “… at just the right time”! Did you notice the phrasing used in communicating this truth? God’s timing is always perfect, always.
Never does God do anything unless it is at the exact moment it is needed! Even in the coming of Jesus the first time. It was “In the fullness of time…” God sent His Son here for us! (Galatians 4:4) And consider this, Jesus came to live in a world infested with sin. Jesus came to die the Death that only those who refuse to receive what Jesus is offering will experience.
Something we do not want to ever admit to is being powerless! There is a consistent message given to us throughout our lives. Only losers are weak, are powerless, have not the ability, the strength to cope with life. We spend so much time trying to be strong, seeking to be what we are not capable of being it interferes with everything God longs to give us! It is one of those revealers of the God Complex which is quite subtle, wouldn’t even be considered as inappropriate. But it is a lie, a dangerous lie that causes many to miss the gifts offered by God as delivered by Jesus through the Holy Spirit!
If we are unwilling to accept our need, to recognize being powerless is a fact of life caused by living in a world that is just plain dysfunctional, how can change be effected in our lives? It’s just a reality of life here, no shame, no guilt, nothing except the truth of our need as it is realized in the here and now! But, what does that mean?
Who would you die for if you were forced to make a choice? Of course we would choose to die for family, friends, those we love. That’s really a no brainer question to ask of anyone. The answer is evident. For us it may be clear, but it wasn’t that easy for Jesus when you remember who He was dying for, “… Christ died for the ungodly.” The ungodly refers to you and me, and a whole world left powerless by rebellion’s sin: the ungodly, needing to be saved from themselves, ourselves.
As Paul points out, we might choose to die for a good man, a righteous man, but an ungodly man? Given an accurate picture of our condition, no one would volunteer to die for us! You and I are not any more godly than any other human in the history of this sin-darkened world. It is difficult to accept who and what we are as rebels, as conspirators sucked into a rebellion we didn’t create, but is inherent in our DNA. We could join the ranks of many who declare God is unjust, unfair, in real terms—hateful and vindictive! There is quite a large contingent of people who choose this path for their life’s journey.
Another group of inhabitants insists there is no God! If God were real He would do something about poverty, kids not having enough to eat; if God were real there would be no homeless. “How can a so called loving God allow suffering, despair, and everything else that is wrong with life on this planet?” They cry out in rage against a God who could allow what they believe no one in their right mind could allow! They maintain humanity is basically good, not evil, and this forms a large portion of the foundation of the stronghold they build against the God they deny exists. Yet, how does anyone arrive at the idea that humanity is inherently good? If God doesn’t exist, who do we then blame for all the evil, the horrors, the abuses, the inhumanity of man to man; if there is no God, then can there be a Satan? This leaves only one conclusion: humanity isn’t anywhere near good. Of course, this is not the conclusion the Anti God Brigade comes to believe or declare. Quite honestly I haven’t heard any kind of a theory concerning suffering, evil, wickedness, etc., from those who have rejected any possibility there could be an all powerful Creator, a God who is their very source, the definition of Love!
Ultimately God demonstrates His love for humanity in the choices He made concerning us. When Adam and Eve bought into the lie they could be God, when they called God the Liar by eating the fruit He told them would kill them, they severed the life giving connection with their Creator. The only thing that kept them from dropping dead on the spot was the promise of salvation. The promise God gave in Genesis 3:15 was hardwired directly into John 3:16 and continues into eternity! That same promise was what brought Jesus to this sin-darkened world, where He proceeded to live, die, and to be resurrected all for the human race. What Jesus accomplished was for everyone who had been, was, and would be. No exceptions!
So where does this leave us today as we face ever more challenges in communicating who God really is to a world becoming less interested in Him by the minute! We are left just where disciples of Jesus have always been, filled with the Hope of Jesus as He cocoons us in God’s Grace and love, and the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Taking the gospel to the world simply consists in each of us being available to God to be used as He has planned from the beginning! It really is that simple.
“It cost God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost him crucifixion.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952)
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