“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
I’ll never forget meeting Nathan and Connie. With five sons, they loved the Lord and were busy going about His work. Suddenly, their world was decimated by an unthinkable tragedy. The three oldest boys were driving home from Wal-Mart when a drunk driver crossed the centerline, hitting them head-on. All three were killed as a result of the accident—snatched away in a cruel, horrible moment.
Connie told me that though the accident had happened three years ago, the pain was still fresh. “To this day, it’s wrenching,” she said. But then she continued, “I’ve often wondered if that’s how Mary felt when she looked at the excruciating and publicly humiliating death of Jesus as He hung on the cross.”
It’s a sobering thought. We have sung of the cross, put it on our steeples and on chains around our necks. But if we are not careful, we grow accustomed to the thought of the cross, forgetting the very real pain, real sorrow, and loss that it represents. And while we think of Mary’s agony and the torment of the cross for Jesus, I wonder if the pain wasn’t deepest in the heart of God. Think of the heartache for the One who willingly sent His only Son! No one knew more deeply what the crushing weight and torture of the sins of the world—your sins and my sins—would be like as they were embedded into the soul of the Savior. Think of how God must have felt in that moment.
The apostle John knew full well what that moment looked like. He was there at the foot of the cross, and from Christ’s words on the cross it seems apparent that he was an eyewitness to the grief of Mary (John 19:26). Years later he would describe this moment as the supreme expression of love. “This is love,” John writes, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
The marvel is not that we would love God or choose to offer our lives to Him. It is that He would choose to love us and offer His only Son on our behalf! He willingly endured that pain to bring us back into relationship with Him. This alone—even if God never did anything else for us—should stimulate our hearts to live in grateful love and adoration toward Him for the rest of our lives. The thought of this indescribable love should constantly remind us that we, though undeserving and unlovable in His sight, have been blessed beyond measure and loved like no one else could love us!
I love the words to the hymn penned by Stuart Townend (who clearly has not grown accustomed to impact of the cross):
How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Holy One, bring many sons to glory.
Keeping the cross in mind with all of its heavy, yet joyful, implications may just be the most important thing we do in life!
God’s Man For That Hour
From: Through the Bible
Judges 7:20 (NIV) 20The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”
What a fascinating plan the LORD gave them. Each of the 300 men took a pitcher with a torch inside in one hand. In the other was a trumpet. On cue, they smashed the pitchers and the light shown out. With the other hand they blew their trumpets and then shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”
The enemy was thrown into a panic thinking that each light led a company of soldiers. Frightened in the dark, they killed one another. The dream Gideon had overheard came to pass. What sword were they shouting about? It was the word of the LORD that they were faithfully obeying.
We have a treasure in jars of clay. It is the Light of the world. We seem to be totally outnumbered at times. But we keep on obeying the word and believing. We become broken vessels and the light shines out. We blow the trumpet of the Gospel and the enemy (spiritual powers) is thrown into confusion. In the darkness, the enemy does not know who is a friend and who is a foe. He ends up defeating himself. It is not as if we did any great thing. God gets all the glory. We were outnumbered and outgunned, but we just obeyed and watched God work. If God was faithful to Gideon, to give Him the plan, and encourage Him that He would bring it to pass, will He be any different with you?
Trust God to bring the victory as you obey Him.
Luke 8:16-18 (NIV) 16″No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
What do you have? Only what you have received. You receive physical things and spiritual things. The physical will perish; the spiritual will last. The physical does not transform the soul; the spiritual does.
How do you receive the spiritual? It is usually through your ears. In Jesus’ day, when many could not read or afford to purchase a manuscript, it was almost entirely through the ears. What do you hear?
We are familiar with this illustration as it is used in Matthew, or in the song This Little Light of Mine. Those applications are about boldly letting the witness of Jesus in you be seen by others. In this evening’s passage, Jesus is using it for either good or evil. Others will see whatever you listen to and absorb. You can’t hide what you have become. Listening transforms you. The words go into your mind and heart and affect the way you see the world around you. Cults can transform a person’s perspective by merely isolating them from other points of view. That is why Jesus says, “Consider carefully how you listen.” He is telling us to consider not only what we listen to, but also how we listen. Do we listen with discernment? Are we sorting through what we hear to discard what is not according to the Word of God, and to cling to that which is of value? Do we sort the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error? That is not to criticize, but to discern what we will receive.
Why should we take such caution? Jesus is telling us that if we receive what is good, we will receive more of the same. Our light will be visible to all. If we receive vain words, what we have believed to be of substance will prove to be emptiness. People will see our lack of substance.
Consider: What do you listen to? Consider carefully HOW you hear.