Saturday, January 17, 2015

Looking for God? Claim to be his follower? Prove it!

God's beauty
We read the Bible together. The 6-month challenge, sent by IESJakarta, is to read the New Testament. Today we looked at John 14 (Day 78). Let me share two observations from this morning:

1. Many people, Christian and not, claim they want to know God. Do we really?

Jesus says something startling, something radical, to his disciples and to us. He claims that we see God the Father when we look at him. He is God in the flesh.

At their last meal together, before Jesus' crucifixion, "Philip (one of his inner circle) said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." (John 14:8-11)

The early church affirmed their understanding of God among us. "[Jesus] is the exact representation" of God ..." (Hebrews 1:3) and "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. .... For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:15, 19, 20)

God's creativity
So how do we get to know God? We pursue all the ways in which God has revealed himself. The spiritual disciplines are not just for our personal benefit (by becoming more patient and kind, gaining knowledge or wisdom, etc.) but tools to assist our relationship with God. We read and meditate on the scriptures, contemplate his beauty in nature, fast, and pray.

If you're not doing that, do you really care about getting to know God? or is he just a convenient fall-back when life spins out of control or you need more resources?

2. Those who believe demonstrate their faith in their actions. 

Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

Did Jesus mean only that powerful, supernatural demonstrations would prove we were his followers? Certainly, Jesus and the apostles of the early Church did miracles. And miracles still happen.

God knows each name
and cares about each story
But what did Jesus actually do? He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and set people free. He promised his help for us to do the same: "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:13-14)

Jesus' miracles demonstrated God's care in practical ways, whether he was feeding 5000 hungry people, providing wine at a wedding, or healing a blind man. Let's face it: not all of our efforts are miraculous. But they similarly demonstrate God's compassion and love. We pray for and visit the sick, offer medical treatments, foster community development, fight human trafficking, and support feeding programs. Our hands and feet show God's ongoing love and the work of Christ.

James writes that "faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead," (James 2:17) and "faith without deeds is useless." (James 2:20) If we see hungry people and don't feed them or see someone who needs clothing and don't provide what we can, our claim to belief in Jesus is hollow.

What is Christ's ongoing work? From heaven, he now acts on behalf of his children to provide ongoing reconciliation with God: "There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people..." 1 Timothy 2: 5-6 He uniquely transforms us as he sends us out to continue his work in the world.

The verse on my mantle
So if my life is wrapped up in selfish pursuits, if I have become consumed by the day-to-day grind, or if I refuse to help others, am I doing what Jesus did? If not, am I truly his follower?

It's hard to write this. I don't want to condemn anyone. But these two things have ground through my mind all day. I hope the questions help you - as well as me - to consider how we are setting our goals and spending our days. A review:
1. Do I really want to know God? If so, in what ways am I getting to know Jesus better?
2. In what ways do my actions demonstrate that I believe in Jesus and am following him?

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