Jesus Is a Treasure to Be Discovered

I still remember digging around in a treasure chest full of sand at the Browning Fair. I felt something like a rock and pulled it out – it was gold! Actually, it was a rock, spray-painted to look like gold. I traded it for a cheap plastic fire helmet which was probably the greater treasure to a little boy enamored with firefighters like his Dad and Granddaddy.

There are wonderful and amazing truths to be discovered about our Creator, about eternity, and about our own souls. Where did God hide all of this wisdom? In Jesus.

God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.

– Colossians 2:3 (GW)

Jesus is a treasure worthy of discovery. In fact, He’s worth selling everything else to focus on the hunt with all of our heart and energy. And where do we begin digging? Our first clues are in the story of God inspired in the Scriptures. Grab a Bible. Start digging.

photo credit: ToNToN CoPT

Jesus Is Everything We Really Need

Jesus ReignsOur view of Jesus is usually positive, but also usually limited. We see Him as a good man, maybe even a great man, but perhaps not the Creator, Redeemer, and King that He is.

One of the characteristics of God is His self-sufficiency, which simply means that He exists independently of any of His creation. He doesn’t need anything or anyone in order to continue to be. He is complete and perfect. And Jesus, as God, is all of those things. The Bible gives us a pretty awesome picture of Him.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

– Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT)

In other words, Jesus is perfectly God, supreme over creation, Creator, Sustainer, Eternally existent, Head of the church and Reconciler. He is everything we could possibly need. He offers His love, His wisdom, His life, His call, His gifts, and His kindness to undeserving people like you and me.

Understanding life starts with knowing Jesus. It is in Him that you will find the answers you’re searching for.

Defining the Favor of God

Kindness of StrangersThe phrase “favor of God” seems to be growing in popularity, and I’m glad. It’s a biblical phrase – a good phrase. But it’s often misunderstood. I once heard a guy talk about finding a parking spot right up front on a busy shopping day because of the “favor of God.” I pictured in my mind the pregnant lady with triplets who had to park a football field away because of the favor of God upon this Pastor.

A recent story from LarkNews (satire, by the way – don’t start an email rumor mill – it’s fake) highlights our western view of God’s favor…

Christian family blessed through others’ misfortune

NEW CASTLE, Del. — Sam and Victoria Gutman have always been smart shoppers, but they have gone to another level during the recent recession, buying automobiles, computers and more from distressed owners.

“God continues to bless us,” says Sam. “All things really do work for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. We’re living proof.”

Last week they bought a Lexus coupe from a man who lost his job — and pension — when his employer collapsed.

“He was weeping when he gave me the keys,” Sam says. “I got that car for a third of what it’s worth. Beautiful leather seats, new tires. God is so good.”

Victoria fondly recalls buying a bedroom suite from a couple going through an acrimonious divorce.

“That was one of our best deals yet,” she says. “They drove the price down just to spite each other. That lovely set adorns our bedroom and is a lasting testimony to God’s provision.”

Even the home they live in was purchased as a foreclosure after weeks of aggressive counter-offering.

“God helped us negotiate that one down until we were practically stealing it from them,” Victoria says. “It belonged to a guy who was laid off and had to get a job at McDonald’s. The tilework is unbelievable.”

“…God continues to bless.”

via LarkNews

Scripture, however, presents a different understanding of the favor of God, and it comes out in the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!… Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!”

~ Luke 1:28-30 NLT

Mary and Joseph certainly didn’t enjoy rich circumstances. Situationally, they seemed anything but blessed. Joseph worked as a carpenter to earn the family’s daily bread. The trek to Bethlehem was challenging because of Mary’s pregnancy and we all know that there was found no room for them in the inn in such a small town. But she still enjoyed the favor of God like few in history had.

If the favor of God isn’t necessarily material or financial, then what is it? It’s simply the undeserved kindness of God. God, in His sovereignty and His good will toward His children, chooses at His own initiative to show undeserved kindness to people.

I don’t know why Mary was chosen for this role, but I do know that it wasn’t on the basis of how good she was. She, like the rest of us, was a sinner, saved by the grace of God. While I do believe we can live in such a way that we are more ready recipients of His favor, I still believe His favor is granted in His sovereignty, which makes it all the more beautiful when we see it.

We can identify God’s favor when we see three things happening…

  1. God has sovereignly chosen a recipient of His grace.
  2. God has blessed that recipient in one way or another.
  3. God has intentions that His blessing be shared with others.

I don’t see, in Scripture, God’s favor granted to people simply for their own enjoyment, but rather so that the lives of others can be changed and God can be glorified. Our enjoyment of His blessings brings Him pleasure and glory in the eyes of others.

God’s gracious kindness is His to give, and He gives it when, to whom, and how He chooses. But Scripture also invites all of us to be partakers – to come by faith and receive the gift of Jesus Christ, freely offered for all the world. In other words, while none of us can demand or expect God’s favor, we can claim it on the basis of grace – on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The favor of God isn’t about having more money or easier circumstances. It’s about enjoying the kindness of God, sovereignly, yet freely offered to all who will receive Jesus Christ and the life He has to offer.

What I Really Deserve

Nice FruitThis week, I’m staying in a nice hotel in Ocala, Florida, driving around in a rented Camaro, and eating fresh fruit – all sweet gifts from The Church at the Springs where Pastor Ron Sylvia and others are hosting Nuts & Bolts, a conference for church planters. I feel very blessed to be here. I don’t deserve it.

What I do deserve is the full weight of the wrath of God toward sin for my rebellion against God. I learned a huge lesson a long time ago from my friend, Bobby Conway. I walked into a nice hotel with Bobby where we were hosting him while he preached a revival at our church. He looked up at his beautiful surroundings and exclaimed, “I deserve hell, and I’m staying here?” That line deeply impacted me. I am not entitled to any of the good and gracious gifts of God.

I don’t deserve nice surroundings. I don’t deserve my awesome, loving wife. I don’t deserve my precious kids that make me smile daily. Life, for most of us, especially in America, is cushy. If we ever get the impression we deserve any of it, we’re sorely mistaken. Instead, we need to understand that each next breath is a gracious gift of a very forgiving God.

Not only have I been spared from ever seeing the wrath of God toward sin, I also get to enjoy the bounty of the goodness of God. Why? Because of what the prophet Isaiah foretold about Jesus: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT)

I’m not saying at all that we should refuse to enjoy good things. That would demonstrate ingratitude toward the Creator and Savior of the world. What I am saying is that every time we enjoy even the smallest of gifts, our hearts should be reminded of the price Jesus paid on the cross so that we might enjoy the freedom and promise of eternal, abundant life.

The old phrase is “never forget where you came from.” That’s a good starting place, but I like the way the apostle Paul put it even better…

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world… All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!

~ Ephesians 2:1-5 NLT

Look around, and be thankful. You and I deserve hell, but the offer is freely on the table for anyone in all the earth to receive complete forgiveness of sin because of the price Jesus paid for us when He died on the cross. If you aren’t sure what to make of that, let’s talk.