Best News Ever.

Most of my blog posts are directed towards Christians. Still, I don’t want to assume that my readers are Christians. Keith Green used to say, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”  The same could be said about a blog.
Even for us Christians, we need to hear the good news over and over again.  As we tell and hear it again and again it reminds us of our first encounter with God’s great love for us. It tells us who we are. Different times we hear it, we encounter different facets of the same truths. I’ve always loved hearing the story of how my parents fell in love.  It gave me roots and security because their beginning was my beginning.  I think the gospel is like that, only better.

So this post is about the best news ever.  I’ll try to get out of the way so you can see it for the wonder it really is. God has a dream in His heart for  us.  Over and over again in the Bible, there is this theme of God wanting to have an intimate relationship with people.  It started with Adam and Eve walking with God in the garden, enjoying each other.  Even though man sinned, God’s dream remained.   This dream is communicated many different ways throughout scripture. “I will be your God, and you will be my people” is repeated several places from Exodus 6:7 to Revelation 21:7.   It is an invitation.  God wants to be with us, in a relationship. God created us for His pleasure, and He wants to enjoy being with us forever. A relationship with God is our highest call and purpose.  It is the most important commandment, according to Jesus. Without this relationship with Him, we are only a shadow of what we were meant to be, and ultimately our lives will end in destruction.
Anyway, if you’re not sure you’re a Christian, I would like to invite you into a relationship with your Creator. This is the most important decision of your life. It will change everything in this life and determine where you spend eternity.
You probably have had some sense all your life that you were made for something more or that something was missing. That hunger was put in your heart by God so you would seek Him.  Only He can satisfy that ache in you. He also gave you a general sense of right and wrong, and if you haven’t abused it, it is still there in you. Often we call it our conscience.
If you pay attention to your conscience at all, you’re probably aware that you do wrong things a lot. God calls that sin, which means missing the mark of God’s perfection. In our culture, we don’t talk about sin very often, because we have abandoned God’s way and given into the idea of moral relativism.  The problem is, God’s standards haven’t changed. Let’s consider the Ten Commandments.  You probably haven’t murdered, maybe you haven’t even committed adultery, but have you ever wanted what your friend had?  Have you ever talked bad about someone?  Then you’ve sinned. Me, too, so I’m definitely not pointing fingers, I’m just pointing out where we all start.  The Bible says that if you break God’s law one time, you’re guilty of it all. Sounds like an impossible standard, huh?  That really was the whole point, God wanted us to know that we are all sinners needed rescuing, and to live our lives with Him as our source. We’re used to comparing ourselves to others, but when we compare ourselves to Him, we’ll always fall short.
The truth is that after Adam sinned, we were born with the nature of a sinner, just like we are born with certain family traits. The law was given to expose our nature. Before we accept Christ as our Savior, it’s totally natural to sin. I never had to teach my kids to lie or sneak around and do something they shouldn’t. They naturally do that. It’s interesting that while humanists have influenced our culture to the point that people assume people are basically good, I’ve never once heard a parent say, “I need to be more consistent in teaching my child how to lie.” No one complains about how hard it is to get your child to be mean.  Nope, we are natural born sinners.  We need a new nature.
Now for the really good news- God loves us all so much that He had a plan before the first person ever sinned to make a way for us to enjoy being with God again.  He really wants to be with us.  He longs for us. He loves you more than you ever thought was possible for anyone to love you. He knew we’d mess up, so He had this family that He chose to reveal Himself to and through. It started with Abraham and He ended up with a whole nation, Israel. He told them how they should live and promised them that He would send someone to rescue them. They waited a long time, misunderstood, sinned, and got into a lot of trouble, but He kept His promise. He always keeps His promises.
He left heaven, and all of the privileges of being God and became a man, Jesus. Imagine being surrounded by perfect joy, love and worship, never feeling temptation, lack, or loneliness, and leaving it all so that you could be with someone who you knew would be cruel to you. That’s what God did. To be with you. To be with me.  He came here fully God, but fully man. It’s a mystery that none of us really can understand. He came as a baby, totally dependent on Mary, a teenager, to care for Him. (The longer I’m a mother, the more it amazes me that God came as a dependent and vulnerable as a baby.) He lived life, and went through all the hard stuff-pain, rejection, loneliness, and temptation, but He never sinned.
His life was a perfect expression of Father God.  So what do you think He went around doing? Yelling at people and telling them to get in line?  He did that a few times, but that was usually with the people that thought they were holy, and were making it seem hard to get to God. Jesus didn’t like that. Jesus mostly went around healing people, loving them, and telling them about the Kingdom of God.  He gave hope to the hopeless.*
You would think that everyone would like him, and most people did, at least for a while.  People are fickle, and He made people uncomfortable. He said He was God.  There were those that were jealous of Him and the crowds following Him. Some were disappointed that His Kingdom wasn’t an earthly, political kingdom. They were afraid, and they decided to get rid of Jesus. Jesus was crucified, but no one could have done that unless He allowed it. He was God, but that was the plan all along, so He let them kill Him. First, he was beaten with a cat of nine tails, almost to death. Then, He was crucified, one of the most torturous forms of capital punishment throughout history, but He chose to come then. He allowed it happen to be with us. He was dead for three days, and the darkness thought it had won, but Jesus had told His followers that He would rise again. So they put Roman guards and a huge stone in front of the entrance to the tomb.*
cross
On the third day, some of Jesus’ followers went to His tomb, and it was empty. They were afraid that someone had stolen the body, until Jesus appeared to them, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in groups, sometimes to hundreds at a time. A while after He resurrected, He commissioned His followers to spread the gospel and represent the Father the way He did when He was on earth, and He ascended into heaven.  His followers were scared of the Romans, so they hid.  They also obeyed Jesus and waited in Jerusalem for the Gift from the Father, too.  On the day of Pentecost, God filled them all with the Holy Spirit. After that, they had courage and spread the message of God’s love all over the world. When they were asked what people had to do to be saved, they said, “Believe (trust, rely on) on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
The longer I walk with the Lord, the less sure I am about how to share the gospel, because it’s a relationship. How do you give instructions on how to fall in love?  The truth is that every time someone came to Jesus, He said something slightly different, because He knew what was keeping them from God.  To one rich man, He said that, in order to have eternal life, He needed to sell everything he had and follow Jesus.  To a Jewish leader, He said, you must be born again, a spiritual mystery to enter into, instead of a ritual to perform or a law to follow.  To a thirsty, immoral woman, He says, “If you knew who you were talking to, you would ask me for Living Water so that rivers of Life would flow in your belly and you would never thirst again.”  To people who claimed that they wanted to follow Him, He said anyone that would follow would need to deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Him.
To people who are seeking fulfillment in other places, He says, “Give me that, and I’ll give you what you really are looking for. I’ll satisfy you.  That relationship, success, temporary pleasure or thing that gives you confidence will let you down.  At best, it’s a dead end. At it’s worst, it will lead to destruction. You were made for something better.  Let me show you how to really live.  Give me that and I’ll give you Me.  I’ll be enough for you.”
To people who know they’re sinners that need a way out, He offers forgiveness if they put their trust in Him.  He offers real life.  Not necessarily riches or an easy life, but a life worth living. The celebrations are sweeter, the hardships have a reward.  At the end of this life, you step into something sweeter, heaven, with no fear.  You’re never alone.  God is with you. You always have a Friend, a Father who never leaves, an Advocate, a Counselor.  Again, I’m not saying it easy; I’m saying it’s worth it.
If you would like to make the best decision you could ever make, you could pray something like this-
“God, I know that I sin and can never measure up to your goodness, but I know that you love me and sent Jesus to be the only way for us to be together.  Thank you for your love and Jesus’ sacrifice. I’m sorry for my sin.  Please forgive me. I turn away from sin and my own way of living, and I turn towards you.  I invite you into my life. Reveal the love of the Father, the Grace of Jesus and the friendship of the Holy Spirit to me.  Fill me with the Holy Spirit. Teach me how to love You and love others well. Correct me where I’m wrong. Train me. Help me to want what you want. Speak to me as I read the scriptures. Comfort me where I hurt.  Be my Best Friend. Satisfy this longing in my heart that only You can fill. Show me your purpose for my life and help me to pursue it with You no matter the cost.  Give me courage not to falter when times are hard and grace to put You first when times are easy.”
When you accept Jesus, you get a new nature. You don’t want to sin anymore. You may be tempted, and  you will even fall, but you won’t enjoy sin as much as you used to. You will want God.  The Holy Spirit, the Word of God and Christian friends become attractive to you and will help you grow in Christ.
I would hope that all of you who read this have already invited Jesus into your life or will do it today, because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
The consequences for choosing or rejecting Jesus are eternal.  Heaven and hell are real.
Still, I believe honesty with God is important. Going through the motions with God gets you nowhere, because God knows your heart. He’s not into empty prayers. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to salvation. If the prayer above isn’t honestly what is in your heart, will you consider praying this prayer-
“Jesus, if you’re real, will You show me who You really are?
Will you change the desires of my heart and give me a new life?”
I believe God will answer that honest cry.  Pay attention to how He shows Himself to you through the love of people and animals, the beauty and wonder of creation, and many kindnesses He’s extended to you. You may want to read the gospel of John or Matthew to see who Jesus is for yourself.  They’re pretty short, and you may be surprised about what you find. Jesus loves you so much. My prayer is that the more you see Him, the more you’ll want to know Him, and that He will give you time to make the decision to give your heart and life to Him. You won’t regret it.  It’s the best gift you could ever receive.
“So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:7-10‬ ‭NASB‬‬
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭9:23-26‬ ‭NASB‬‬
* These paragraphs are highly influenced by the  Jesus Storybook Bible, a great read for children and adults alike.

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