The Best Life Possible…

Two primary thoughts struck me this morning as I read Matthew 11.  The first is that even the greatest person to be born of a woman can be perplexed and have doubts about God’s plan.  John the Baptist, the first prophet to Israel in 400 years, and who came on the scene with the power of Elijah found himself in prison wondering, “where did I misunderstand God’s plan?” 

In the midst of John’s uncertainty, Jesus mildly rebukes him and yet gives him great praise for his role in preparing the world for the coming King and His Kingdom. John had proclaimed a message of judgment and yet Jesus reminded him that the Kingdom was more than that.  How easy it is to think we know what God is doing and yet God’s plan is often different than ours.  God is in control even when my circumstances do not fit my understanding of His plan!

The second thing that stood out to me this morning is that I live a very privileged life. In fact, it is the best time to live since the Fall because I am living in the dawning of the Kingdom!  The Kingdom is not yet fully realized, but in its present form, the best life possible is the one that is yoked to Jesus in discipleship.  Jesus said,

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

An alternate translation is “my yoke is pleasant and my burden is easy to carry.”  A yoke was used in the culture to bind two oxen together as they plowed a field.

Why is being yoked to Jesus the best life possible? Because of the character of Jesus.  I am not yoked to a tyrant or an unreasonable uncaring authority, but one whose character is marked by gentle humility.  In fact, Jesus over time is carefully making me like Him as I am yoked to Him in discipleship.

Father, plowing a field and pulling a load is hard work! Nowhere did You promise soft ground for tilling or level paths for bearing my load. What You did promise is a relationship with You as I till and as I pull. The demands are great.  In fact, You expect my very best, but my relationship with You in life makes the path pleasant and my burden easy to carry.  Help me to learn from You and remain faithful.  Thank you for wanting to disciple me!

Following Jesus with you!

The Verdict Is In!

I am fascinated by the apostle Paul.  In his own description of himself, he states that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, zealous, a persecutor of the church and much more (Phil. 3:5ff).  Then in Acts 9 he encounters Christ and his life is forever changed as he became a follower of Jesus.

As an Apostle spreading the Gospel, he encountered great hardship. He summarizes his challenging life when he says,

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (1 Cor. 11:23-28)

How did Paul press on through extreme physical suffering and even accusations from those within the church (1 Cor. 4)?

I think one of the truths that allowed Paul to maintain his joy, perseverance, and passion is found in Rom. 8:1 which says:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What is so striking about that verse?  The word “now.”  Paul realized that the verdict is in on his life even before his life is finished!  When he embraced Jesus Christ as his Savior and God, his sin was forgiven, and he began life as a child of God.  He understood the Gospel freed him from trying to earn his position before God and he wanted the world to know that!

In our culture, our court system weighs the evidence of a person’s actions and then makes a verdict of guilt or innocence.  But, as a Christian, the verdict is in now prior to the weight of all evidence of my life!  As a Christian, I can know now that my sins have been forgiven, even the ones I have not yet committed because I have already been declared righteous in the court of God because of my faith in Christ.

This truth is summarized in Rom. 5:1-2 which says,

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith (past tense), we have peace with God (present tense) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

Paul got it!  Through Christ, he was declared righteous (“justified”), had peace with God and stood in a grace relationship with God!  As a result, Paul lived out of his certain position.  His security was found in the promises of God’s Word and his actions were based upon the truth of God’s Word.

Father help me to grasp the amazing truth that the verdict on my life is already in!  You have already determined my standing because of my choice to trust in Jesus as my Savior.  When I make mistakes and doubt myself today, I need not live in fear of your rejection because your grace through Christ has already set me in a permanent loving relationship with you.  You are now my Father and nothing I can do will change that.  Help these truths motivate me to faithfulness and obedience and give me your peace in the midst of a fallen world.

Following Jesus with you!