021018 Here we go. One day before the big day. I have thought up a storm; It’s take to weigh anchor. It’s time to put it all together, if only for a miniscule amount of time, for us to unleash the firestorm once again… all, tomorrow.
God, who was impossible to reach, reached down to us, and not just made it possible but absolutely accessible for any and all who believe to receive. Christ said, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life, and He who believes in me shall live, even though he dies.’; Then, He asks, and I ask us all, ‘Do you believe this?’
We start it off with a Recap. Our Pastor John shared a message last week – rather, a question, which stated, ‘What Do You Believe?’
We talk about how the words faith and belief are the word Pisteuo in the Greek, one of them fancy words which can translate to ‘total trust, reliance and commitment.’ Putting all this together, Pastor John started us off this month with a charge for us to fully trust in God as an act or a demonstration of our beliefs.
Essentially, an answer to the question, ‘What Do You Believe?” is, of all things, that our God is trustworthy. We can trust God enough to say that God is good, all the time.
Now, we have another question: ‘Is the Unconditional love of God conditional?’
In all honesty, I reacted to this question with some hostility. I thought to myself, was Pastor Oscar – Senior Minister and source of our messages – just doing a play on words to make this sound witty? Eventually, by God’s good grace and by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, by His gentle reminder that I was made for a better attitude than to be cynical, I decided to honor him by respecting this message, and more importantly, owning it.
But I think that the focus here is what is critical. For us to ask this question reflects a lot on how we think of God, who He is, and what He has done for us.
One of the practices that we see to have going for us, especially since the grace of God has been revealed to us corporately, is for us to change the lyrics to songs we were fond of singing, so they would conform to the doctrine and message we all claim to come together to share.
I, on the other hand, have also thought about the songs we sing. I appreciate our efforts to make changes. However, there are those even more subtle things that you all may want to consider. For instance, we sing of songs, like ‘Where would I be if not for Your grace?’ – I remember crying to this song a lot. And don’t get me wrong, I still like the song, much as I like ‘Give Us Clean Hands’, and ‘A Pure Heart’. Sure. I mean, if these sorts of songs and their content still minister to you, then I am still happy.
But really, if you were to ask me, and if I knew I was in the presence of brothers and sisters who explode with the knowledge of God’s love for them, then I would prefer not to sing them, just as I wouldn’t sing about things that were impossible. See, we know that God will never leave us. We know that Christ is alive in us. That’s a certainty. But I’m not about to compromise and sing about things that are absolutely impossible, just for creative purposes.
That’s the same thing with this question. What is the reason behind us asking, ‘Is the unconditional love of God conditional?’; Why are we pondering on something that will never happen? Will God ever leave us nor forsake us? No? Then would we be making the most of our time by thinking about it? In the face of other things that we can think about, absolutely not.
Pastor John and I are completely opposite in a lot of things: methodologies, mindsets, and even political alignments. Yet I acknowledge him as a good and great brother, because He is a brother in Christ. See, we can be butting heads in so many things, but what keeps us together, and I dare say, what keeps all of us together here, is none other than Christ, whom I like to call our greatest common denominator.
If Pastor John and I focus on what we don’t agree on, then we wouldn’t be brothers for long. No, I propose that before anything else, we share our own perspectives on our common Savior, our common Way, our common Truth, and our common Life.
But, pardon my manners. For the sake of closure, why don’t we answer the question?
We’ve seen all the conditions in the Old Testament. The 10 commandments were part of a great list of 600+ standards that the nation of Israel had to meet simply for them to live up to their name. Trivia: the name Israel is true to the first person whom it was given to – Jacob, who ‘wrestled with God’. I find it ironic, that this same name given to those who would be Jacob’s descendants, would give us a look at their relationship with God over centuries of prophets, priests, and kings.
And wrestle they did, and in the fullness of time, God became man and dwelt among us, and Christ, who said ‘It Is Finished’ on the cross, confounded the power of sin and death, that in His resurrection, God would look at us and say, among other things, ‘It Is Good’.
You would think that this would be the end of the discussion. However, in this day and age, there remains the prevalent thought that God’s love for us is dependent on our behavior and our actions. Yes, we are bold to say that the 10 Commandments and the Law have found their end in Christ, but we do a complete turnaround when we give more focus on certain verses AFTER the cross and the resurrection, which state things like ‘liars, the sexually immoral, and drunkards, and so on cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’
Okay, let’s say that we do understand the truth that we are New Creations in Christ, and that we are no longer liars and drunkards, but permanent saints in Christ who still lie and drink a little more than what can be handled. However, we would still be doing just as much damage if we take something that God has given to us absolutely freely, and peddle them with subtle prices, such as ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God’.
Now before you gnash your teeth and cry out ‘BLASPHEMY!’, let me say, yes, I totally agree with this message! I agree that faith does come from hearing! But the problem is if we try to make a system out of it, or if we try to make it a one-size fits all requirement, call it what you want, a requirement is still a condition!
Do you see my point here? It’s okay to ask the question, ‘Is the unconditional love of God conditional’, but if you have your focus on anything else besides the love of God, then you’re missing the Good News!
Yes, in one perspective, I believe that God’s love IS actually conditional. God’s love is the only love there is. Yet God is love, and God is perfect, and so true love is perfect love. Therefore, to say that God’s love is conditional is such an understatement.God and true love are one and the same, and it is absolutely perfect. As perfect as pure light that would otherwise burn straight into our skulls if we wouldn’t cover our eyes.
But this that is perfect is also everlasting, and with that said, un-quantifiable, and therefore, expanding, and expanding, and expanding. Scientists say that the universe is expanding, and since we know that God’s love is demonstrated in His glory, and that His glory is made evident in all creation and in all the universe, we understand that God’s love is expanding, expanding, and expanding.
This love is so amazing and revolutionary. What I mean by revolutionary is that it’s so good that it goes against the grain of what we think is good. What do you think Paul was thinking when he said that he considers all things as dung? What do you think Christ was trying to point out when He said that you need to hate your own father and mother?
You can go ahead and cast down your victories and failures and call this proof of you honoring God, or even showing how much you love God more than anything else. You can go ahead and contend with your parents, and be obnoxious with other people, claiming that you are standing for the Truth, and for righteousness.
But Paul had a different point, entirely: For compared to knowing the absolute greatness and glory of God’s love, not in doctrine, not in words, but literally in Christ, who is literally alive in us and will never, ever, ever leave nor forsake us, every single other thing in this life is flawed and unappealing.
And we claim that we would not be where we are without our parents, but where would our parents be without God?
And, therefore, what would conditions be, knowing that Christ met all the conditions for God’s perfect and everlasting love to come running to us, before we could even offer ourselves as servants to Him?
If you want a condition for God’s love, it’s that you need to know that God’s love is unconditional. And then you would know that it’s not just going to be first in your life, it’s not just going to be the center of your life, but as Christ is God’s love, and as Christ is the Life, so Christ is in ALL THINGS.
We like to quote that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love through Christ. Well, since we have such an awesome Savior, whose commitment and ownership towards us is so extreme, I can dare to look and live from the other side of the coin: That everything connects us to God’s love, through Christ.
Whether life, or death, or trials, or tribulations, or victories, or failures… everything connects us to God’s love, through Jesus Christ our Lord, our Life, our Unconditional Love.
Do you believe this?