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McGuiggan Reflections Ep 104
Series: The Preacher and His Work
Sub Section: God Maketh Himself Present
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Jeremiah 18:1-11: The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear[a] my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ ” (ESV)
Jonah 3:1-5: Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh…Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (NIV)
Isaiah 48:18-19: Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; your offspring would have been like the sand, and your descendants like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from before me.” (ESV)
Jeremiah 18:1-11 speaks for itself. There are times when we need specialists to help us (and we’re grateful for it) but every now and then we come across a verse or a section so plain that we don’t need their help. If we don’t understand a very plain text then we’ll not be able to understand the scholar who’s going to show that it’s not plain. Let’s give God the credit for given us some basic sense and use it.
Jonah is a good illustration of Jeremiah 18. “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown,” he said. But it didn’t happen! And you know why it didn’t happen. Nineveh repented. Refresh your mind by reading the story for yourself.
Then look at Isaiah 48:18-19. Israel’s state would have been different than it was when the prophet spoke. It was a shambles though that wasn’t God’s heart’s desire. He purposed a glorious future for them but that glorious future turned out to be their captive present in Babylon. If they’d only responded to God as they should have. Sigh. That’s what Jeremiah taught and that’s what Jonah illustrated.
All of that says what? It says that unfulfilled prophecy, promise or threat, should not surprise us. We’re warned ahead of time (Jeremiah 18:1-11).
Those texts say that a glorious promise might not turn out as glorious as promised.
They say this also: a threat of imminent judgment might be delayed. “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown,” was God’s announcement but God “changed His mind” (Jeremiah 18:1-11). Still, the judgment did fall on Nineveh many years later as the book of Nahum tells us. Still “forty” is “forty” and it didn’t happen. True, but do allow Jeremiah 18:1-11 to have its way.
The idea that life is like a pre-played chess game and God moves all the pieces independent of human behavior, good, bad or indifferent, is simply not true. God made humans and He makes His sovereign and fatherly decisions in light of the creature He sovereignly and fatherly created. That’s who He works with! GOD did not choose to work with puppets or chess pieces.
Try not to worry about “unfulfilled” promises or “judgments” because they are affected by human behavior, ours and that of others—and God allows it to be that way (Acts 14:16). God not only works with humans, He loves the humans He works with—all of them! But it’s precisely because He loves them all that things in a fallen world become complex. Nineveh didn’t go down in Jonah’s time because God loved Nineveh. But Nineveh did go down in Nahum’s time because God loved the little nations that Nineveh was terrorizing. Love experiences a conflict of interest in a world like this. So promises are delayed or partially fulfilled, judgment is delayed or eased. Jesus Christ is the life of God lived out as a human. That’s part of the reason you have Matthew 11:28 and Matthew 23:33 and then 23:37.
In His own good time God will make all things plain and we will see and experience what in our better moments we long for and dream of. Think noble things of God.
UNFULFILLED PROPHECY LOVE’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS
The quiet shrewd man, Jacob, stuck it to his brother Esau. I think we should allow Esau’s protest in Genesis 27:36 to stand. He claims that Jacob robbed him twice (25:29-34; 27:1-35)—taking advantage of him and later plainly robbing him. Commentators like Wenham trenchantly deny Jacob took advantage of him—I think they’re wrong. No matter, we’re certain that Jacob stole what God had already assigned to him (25:21-23). But the faithful God forgave the sly deceiver and renewed His covenant to Abraham’s grandson (28:10-22). But we expect that from the God we have come to know in Jesus Christ; what we find startling and makes us shake our heads in deep pleasure is when we see humans forgive great wrongs. Genesis 33:4 is one of those beautiful texts that we maybe would do well to have it nicely printed, framed and hung where we can daily see it. Here in the face of a human we see the face of God (33:10).
“But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him,
and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (33:4)
“But while he was still far off, his father saw him…and ran and put
his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
I’ve been criticized a lot in my life and I know that I fully deserved the bulk of it though I wish I could believe otherwise. I’m also aware that the criticism has helped me in some respects, maybe more than I know. But while some of the moments when I was openly taken to task are vivid and unforgettable I remember just as easily, with profound joy and consequent assurance, occasions when I expected fury without forgiveness but saw the face of God. They were the faces of humans, of course, but it’s precisely because they were the faces of humans that they brought and bring me assurance about God. If humans can and do it, if Esau could and did it, I know the God and Father of Jesus Christ can and does it. We cannot believe that humans are kinder and more forgiving than God so when we see glad forgiveness there in humans we are seeing the face of God.
I was reminded this very morning (Jordy sent me a message by Craddock) that open-heartedness, pity as well as implicit trust, from One who knows us can unlock doors with rusty locks and cobweb covered. Zacchaeus, the tax collector, must have gotten a lot of just criticism and cold exclusion that I’m supposing froze any warm purpose in him, any friendly overtures. “If that’s how they treat me, well then, I can do without them.” Maybe he could. I’ve come across more than one who has made it crystal clear that they want no part of this one or that one or me. My fear is that they’ll die that way, isolated and the cold getting right down into their bones, dead long before they die and going to meet a God who often wears a human face. And this God looked at the human up in the tree—one who had made choices that he knew would isolate him and who lived now in a cold world with long periods of frozen silence.
Doesn’t the story in Luke 19 seem to say that there was something down in the man that wanted better? He had heard of Him but he wanted more than stories though stories are wondrous; he wanted to see Him and the one he wanted to see saw him and spoke salvation. He wasn’t morally lectured, he was embraced; he wasn’t fiercely criticized he was loved and the warmth of it unfroze whatever might have been frozen in Zacchaeus. Who can do such a thing, who can act this way? Only God we’re tempted to think.
But no, people like Esau who have been
profoundly sinned against but have a face like God can do it also!
One of Israel’s great crimes—maybe her cardinal crime—was to forget. See how this is stressed in the book of Deuteronomy. Eight times (8) they are warned not to “forget”. Fourteen times (14) they are called to “remember”. The tragedy of the book of Judges is spelled out in 2:10. After Joshua “a generation arose who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” In Deuteronomy 7:17-18 God’s cure for any fear of strong enemies (if they were to be cured) was to “look back”—remember. “You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” And see Deuteronomy 32:7.
Hand-wringing worry about “dwindling numbers” is no cure for dwindling church numbers. We are not to whimper about such things. A very strong case can be made for the view that our dwindling numbers is precisely because we haven’t looked back at what the Lord our God did at the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. The truth is, neither Israel nor the New Testament People have an identity without what has happened in the past! Forget that and we don’t know who we are! Our strength, if we are to have strength in the face of entrenched and intimidating enemies, is to take God’s advice and look back at who our God is and what he has done for His people of any era. But it’s GOD we are to look back to! And if we are to find vibrant hope and assurance in leaders today it will be leaders who will focus our eyes on a GOD who is “a tried stone, a precious cornerstone” (God Himself) and if we do that, “those that believe will not panic.” Isaiah 28:16.
Judah was scared witless when the news came that Assyria was on the march to world conquest. Syria and Israel was in Assyria’s path and they were in panic so they first pleaded for an alliance with Judah and when that didn’t work they conspired to set a king on the throne of Judah to gain a triple alliance. Isaiah urged Judah’s king Ahaz to trust in God but the trustless king wouldn’t and thought that worshiping new gods would fix the problem. But that was precisely the central crime of Israel. In Deuteronomy 32:15-18 God tells us, “He forsook God who made him…They sacrificed…not to God (but) to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not revere…Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful and have forgotten the God who Fathered you.”
They thought they would preserve the nation by spending money, by shrewd tactics and adopting the ways of the world (see 2 King 16:5-29; 2 Chronicles 28; Isaiah 28:14-22; 31:1-9. But the prophet had told them (7:1-9), “Except you believe you will not be established.”
This is more than a word for the 8th century BC. If people, young and old are walking away from God it is because they have grown tired of the old God (the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus Christ!) it’s because they don’t know Him and they gone looking and bowing before new gods. Leaders old or new are worth nothing unless they lead our People to the God of baptism, the God of the life, death and resurrection of the past that makes the present bearable and the future assured. And the God of the Supper where we “remember” the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus who gives us our identity, our very existence as a People and who is coming back!
Have nothing to do with this hand-wringing, bleating that requires new messages from God! One Lord is enough, one thrilling throbbing gospel of God is enough. If that God can’t keep His People from obliteration and if His 2,000 year old gospel fervently offered by our leaders doesn’t give us life, empower and thrill us then no gimmicks, no shrewd schemes, no mega-church aims will resurrect us.
See what’s there in front of us, acknowledge pain or loss or apparent defeats! We don’t need to deny that the enemies are real. They’ve always been real! So is God! So is the Lord Jesus. The invisible hosts of wickedness are real but so is the invisible Spirit of the Lord God! A pox on this whimpering about the future of the Body of Christ, the Nation of God, the Temple in which He dwells by His Spirit! Jesus Himself has assured us that the Gates of Hell (Death) cannot prevail against it! All that can be shaken will be shaken but the Kingdom of God can’t and won’t be (Hebrews 12:7-28) and the Head of the Church is the LORD JESUS!
A People doesn’t carry its God. See Isaiah 46 and God’s 8th century BC message to His 21st Century people.
Since we know nothing about the precise nature of angelic or heavenly beings we can’t say how much or how little power they have by nature, that is, simply because they are angels. It might not be surprising to learn that some angels are inherently stronger than others are, in the way some humans are physically stronger than others are. But we can’t be sure of that.
We do read in Revelation 12:7-8 (NIV) that Satan wasn’t strong enough to win against Michael and his army, but it isn’t clear what that means. For example, we don’t know if it means Michael was inherently stronger than Satan, or if at that moment God gave Michael superior strength, or if it was the fault of the satanic army that he wasn’t strong enough. We aren’t even sure, since we’re in an apocalyptic book, if we’re to think in terms of an actual battle and spiritual muscles.
(How do angels “fight”? Is it a clash of minds and wills rather than bone and muscle? It’s difficult not to imagine how they might fight but perhaps it isn’t important to come to conclusions on this or even to spend much time on it. The word “fight” which generates images of actual collision or killing may fool us. Paul speaks of us “wrestling” against spiritual enemies or “running a race” or “fighting a good fight” but none of these phrases mean we actually run or fight or wrestle. They’re metaphors for aspects of living. Angels may war with or withstand one another simply by living to God’s glory or doing the reverse. See also Daniel 10:20-11:1).
We may be tempted to think that the differing degrees of position among heavenly beings must speak of superior “strength”. Michael is an “arch” angel and is said to be a “chief” (Daniel 10:13; Jude 9) but there’s no way of knowing if this is because he is stronger than others are (that he has more spiritual muscles and could out-fight everybody). It may mean he is more glorious in some “non-power” way or more devoted to God, or some such thing. That Satan is seen as a leader among the hostile spiritual forces doesn’t prove he has more “coercive” power than all others do. It might be he gained notoriety because of his rebellion against God and became the unspoken leader. (Al Capone, Hitler and Stalin come to mind as illustrations of people not physically strong but ruthless and shrewd and so gained a following. If we’re to speculate, something like that may be the case with Satan.)
Angels are supernatural beings and don’t belong to the “natural” realm but what does that entail? Does it mean because they are angels that they can create things? Can they work miracles? Can they read the minds of people? Because they are angels can they simply will people to become ill, or can they kill them if and when it pleases them?
What some angels did
We know angelic beings blinded sinners in Sodom, made a doubtful priest dumb for about nine months, slew a God-despising king and such like (see Genesis 19:1-11, Luke 1:19-20 and Acts 12:21-23) ; but do these events tell us anything about the power angels have as angels? In the cases above (and others like them) the angels are commissioned by God to do a job for Him so why shouldn’t we think He gave them the power needed to complete the job? In addition to that, these afflictions were judgments by good angels on crass evil or slowness of heart to believe. Are they enough for us to build a theology of angelic power (satanic or not) that is outside of God’s control and empowerment? Do any of these illustrations tell us anything about the power angels have because they are angels? Do any of them tell us that satanic angels can exercise coercive or miraculous power?
Ways in which God has given power
If and when God gives power there are at least two ways He might do it. He might build it into the creature as a permanent part of that creature’s constitution or He might give it on certain occasions only for a limited period. What little physical strength I have is structured into me; it’s connected with my physical equipment. Is that how it is with an angel or someone like Satan?
In Judges 13-17 we have Samson whose strength is legendary. The text doesn’t suggest that Samson was incredibly strong because of how he was built. The power wasn’t resident in his muscles or in his hair. He was strong beyond ordinary humans when the Spirit of the Lord came on him (14:6 illustrates the point). It seems that Samson became strong when it suited God’s purposes, rather than God depositing the strength in him as a resident quality.
In the Gospels we see Christ empowering the apostles to work miracles as they go preaching (see Matthew 10:1-8 and parallels). This power is not resident in them (that is, it isn’t part of their human equipment). It seems they were gifted for the special occasions and it was super-human power that was given to them!
Is that how it is with angels, good or satanic? It’s clear that in Job chapters 1 & 2 God commissioned Satan to carry out His (God’s) will. Note especially 1:11 and 2:5 along with 1:21 and 2:10. In the Job text we have no reason to believe that Satan had power over Job independent of God’s commission. Satan was God’s message boy. If we take the text as it sits it was God who commissioned him to do the job and it was God’s fire that burned Job’s fields (1:16) and it was God who brought calamity on him (42:11).
We need to remember that any power Satan had he got it from God. His very existence and continued existence is the work of God. If Satan used his life and power for evil purposes or in a spirit of malice that’s his sin and when God uses Satan’s malice for His holy and worthy agenda that’s God’s glory. If we ask why God would allow sinful Satan to continue to exist we might go on to ask why He allows sinful humans to exist
There’s power and power
For discussion purposes I’d like to isolate two general forms of power: persuasive and coercive. According to the mayor of River City (in the movie The Music Man) the con-man Professor Harold Hill was a “spellbinder.” This was certainly true because Hill made a living out of talking people into things that up to then they had no desire to get into. That’s power. The winsome and lovely life of John McKay’s wife (in Mark Rutherford’s book Deliverance) finally transformed him from being an insensitive clod of a man into a generous and warm human being. That’s power too. These are complex processes but when we discuss them the word “influence” often crops up. The power involved in accomplishing the results aimed at depends in part on those who are changed. The change-agents don’t physically (or otherwise) overwhelm or coerce those who are changed. There’s the element of “persuasion” in it all. This power isn’t irresistible and hence “coercive”.
There’s another form of power. John 2 tells us Christ willed it so and water became wine. On another occasion He spoke a word to a storm and it ceased. The very nature of the cases says there’s no persuasion; there’s no attempt at wooing. This is naked, creative power that “makes it so”. For convenience sake I’m calling it coercive power. In the two instances given it’s irresistible and so it’s coercive (non-persuasive); it has the nature of “creative” power.
Humans exercise coercive power (within human limits). Let a murderer put a gun to the head of your beloved and say, “Do this or I’ll kill her!” We rightly call this coercive power, though it isn’t irresistible. We’ve known or heard of people who refused to live rather than do what was demanded under threat. This is not coercion of the same order as changing water to wine with a wish or making a tornado so we can wreck a house and kill the children (as in the book of Job). These last two go far beyond unaided human ability and there’s no resisting the power.
Coercive power gains its objective without co-operation from anyone or anything else. Bearing in mind that since we exist and continue to exist because it pleases God (Revelation 4:11; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17) we continue to derive our power, coercive or persuasive, from Him. So it is with Satan.
No one has creative power but GOD. Even the power of Jesus was given to Him by God (Acts 10:38).
(To be continued, d.v.)
Mark 4 has Jesus teaching the parable of the sower to the crowd gathered and when He and his immediate disciples were alone they asked Him its meaning (4:10).
It’s interesting that I think I understand the parable easily enough but I don’t understand His (4:13), “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” Obviously there’s a truth in that parable that affects our understanding of the rest of the kingdom parables—I don’t know just what He had in mind for while there are bits and pieces in the parables that I’m puzzled by, on the whole, I think they’re plain enough. What’s hard to understand in the parable of the “Good Samaritan”?
Depending on one’s theology and how it shapes our thinking what’s difficult is 4:11. But it’s difficult precisely because we read it in light of our settled convictions. God helping me I’ll say something about that another time. I’d like to focus on the overall message of the parable.
Here’s my underlying assumption: Jesus is this lovely, compassionate and miraculously empowered healer of people who not only cures physical diseases, He delivers people from demonic power and He declares their sins forgiven. In addition to that, a great prophet (John) has come in the spirit and power of Elijah bearing witness to Jesus as the Coming One (all this in Mark 1—3). This is new doctrine, supported by power that is used to bless and liberate, crowds followed Him as He proclaimed the kingdom (reign) of God and he became famous (1:14-15, 21-28).
With all that being true, how was it that the entire country did not receive Him as the coming King? For one reason or another crowds followed Him for a while but walked away! Established teachers explained that He was in league with the Devil (no doubt using Deuteronomy 13 to support their claim) and even one of His immediate followers, after being with Him for about three years, turned from Him and never came back. It’s true that the church leaders in their panic said (John 12:19), “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!” But that was panic talking. To this day church leaders panic or become very discouraged because people are not “going after Him.” Other shrewd leaders come up with various kinds of gimmicks or wise policies or they lean heavily on crowd psychology or social-shaping theory to get people to “go after Him.” **
I find it easy to imagine why the church leaders opposed Jesus and I also find it easy to imagine His followers to ask, “Why do people not receive you as we do? Why are you a celebratory to many but not the Messiah?”
There’s no panic in the parable of the Sower! Jesus didn’t go off to pray alone and spend that time wondering if He was indeed who He knew Himself to be. His mind wasn’t set on appearances and “success”. He knew who He was and He knew He was living in a world where people were tired, burdened, worried, sick, busy with life’s demands and He well knew that there is religion that closes their hearts to a true vision of God. The parable of the sower is the best kind of realism. It sees humans as humans and because it is the Son of God who tells this story it is how God sees humans.
We have John 12:19 when the church leaders were in panic but we have John 7:47-48 in their satanic arrogance when they rebuked their messengers who didn’t bring Him to them, “Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in him?” Explain in cultural, sociological, religious or psychological terms why they simply would not have Him but in the end it’s satanic. These elements are involved of course—we’re humans and God made us that way—but all these God- established realities have their limits; they are corruptible, corrupting and often corrupted.
We can guess how we will why it was that Judas betrayed Him. He was certainly overly-keen on money but the fact that he threw it away with an agonized confession that he had betrayed innocent blood encourages us to add other possible influences. But Luke makes it clear that whatever the other underlying reasons are, betraying Jesus is satanic (Luke 22:3-4). Even if one is maintaining his/her settled convictions when they renounce Jesus it’s satanic and sincerity or intellectual integrity is serving a satanic agenda.
In the parable of the sower Jesus is explaining (not in fullness—how could He?) His lack of “success”—He allows humans to be humans and since the world is as it is we will “always have the poor/the over-burdened/worried with us” (John 12:8). He doesn’t profess to tell the whole story but He does intend for us to see the world as it really is—as He saw it and we’d want to see it as He did.
He also makes this point! When people come to faith in Him they have not been conned! Good seed has been sown (and there lies one of the fundamental realities we need to note and by His grace and power practice). Given good hearts (and that reality needs discussed and developed) and good seed people turn to God as He is seen in Jesus Christ. They haven’t been duped, they’re not fools, they have embraced the wisdom of God in embracing Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). And while it might be more difficult at times, they believe that the proclamation of Jesus is the power of God as well as His wisdom. (Is that not a test?)
** We’re humans, God made us humans, He hasn’t changed His mind about that and the incarnation makes that point forever. So when we speak and embody the gospel we’re appealing to humans who are shaped by culture, neuro-psychology, emotions, intellect and whatever, that’s humans. It’s just that church leaders can be and are corrupted like everyone else and so we often manipulate and use our power to our own ends. Sigh.
(Holy One, help those you have trusted with your good seed to use it wisely and with generosity. Thank you for bothering! Thank you for eternally bothering. Thank you for letting us know that you know us and know very well that so many of us are tired and worried and filled with care. Let that good seed lead us to think noble thoughts of you. Thank you for making it plain that to reject Jesus is satanic. How tragic, how profoundly tragic it is to see Him (if indeed we are allowed to see Him) and spurn Him. In Him this prayer.)
There’s the sad case of the intellectually brilliant and fine woman, [Marian Evans] who wrote numerous great books under the name George Eliot. She drifted away from faith in God and finally professed agnosticism but God still has used her to tell and develop some rich truths about life in her books. One of them is Silas Marner that tells the story of a deeply religious man who through the wickedness of William Dane [his friend and a fellow church-goer] and the disloyalty of Marner’s fiancé he lost his way, moved to Raveloe, became a virtual recluse and came to worship his fifteen-year store of hard-earned gold guineas.
Hidden under a tile in the floor but brought out, gazed on, handled, counted and adored the gold guineas became the god that took the place of the God he no longer had any time for; the God who watched without helping while Marner was subjected to injustice, lies and desertion. The gold under the floor became his life and even that was snatched away when Dunstan Cass robbed him and vanished like a ghost. Sometime later, on a freezing night with snow everywhere a young woman died not far from Marner’s door and her toddler-child seeing the bright blaze of the fire in his house wandered in through the open door for the light and the warmth while Marner is outside in a cataleptic trance.
The weaver is astonished to find a golden-haired child in dirty rags sitting before his fire and as time goes by he begins to think his gold has returned in a different form. Taking the child as his own he finds himself lifted out of his isolation, bitterness and self-absorbed existence. He named her Eppie.
Eliot tells us of the transformation. The gold under the tile had kept him narrow but with the gold of a vibrant, living, adventurous Eppie he couldn’t remain narrow—she drew him out of himself, brought him into contact with a larger, brighter world that generated new thoughts and new wisdom; a wisdom that was used again and again working on ways to please and help her. The growing pile of gold under the tiles drove him to spend more and more hours tied to his loom, blind and deaf to everything living but this golden-haired child so changed him that every moment away from the loom and spent with her seemed like a holiday.
Her joy infected him; her love of life restored his life; her curiosity made him curious and the pleasure of her discoveries brought pleasure to him because he was discovering life along with her and through her. Redemption by transformation was taking place! As he changed he came more and more into contact with the villagers around him and they began to change and even children who would never have come near the strange old man now stood close to him when Eppie was with him. Ripples and more ripples—such is life.
That kind of literature is worth talking about. That kind of person and life is worth talking about. Is it any wonder then that Christians think Jesus is a Lord worth talking about? Read the brief stories for yourself in the Gospels and allow your imagination to go to work as you read. Jesus walked into villages that were like locked-up and heavily curtained houses where sad people sat through life and he tore down the heavy, dust-covered drapes, threw the windows open and let the wind of the Spirit blow through the place.
We don’t need to be told that not everyone has experienced Jesus in this way. Don’t we know that and know it well! The power of the Lord Jesus to transform lives is not coercive, no one is forced; friendship human or divine cannot be forced; it is either gladly accepted or it doesn’t exist. Ultimately, the power of transforming love is a two-way flow. All the dusty miles between Bethlehem and Golgotha make this clear: there are some places naked power can’t enter and the human heart is one of them.
But in their millions down the years, hurt, crabby, bitter, self-centered, isolated, enslaved and wicked people whose sins weren’t all of their own making and their pain certainly wasn’t—down the years millions like that found their lives transformed when Jesus came into them. A random verse, an unwanted religious tract, a stanza of a hymn, a lovely experience, a beautiful friendship, an unexpected word of praise and in comes Jesus. He came in not to narrow or blind, cripple or rob. He came to transform, to uplift, to enrich and enlighten—to give abundant life and millions will swear that that’s exactly what he has done for them though they don’t live in luxury or perfect health or in perfect marriages. They can’t testify to having found material prosperity since Jesus came to them but they can bear vibrant witness that they have found peace and joy and righteousness and hope that will not die since He came.
A Lord like that is worth talking about!