Jesus said, 'My cross is not merely my cross, it is my invitation for you to carry your cross as well.' (paraphrased) Mark 8:34 says, "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow...
Do we live in a Godforsaken world? It feels like that sometimes, but I pray that we can lay a foundation that will help you connect the dots to give you a framework to accurately interpret life in a way that is real and not a part of a grand elaborate lie. The truth is, there is this reality...
Jesus said, 'My cross is not merely my cross, it is my invitation for you to carry your cross as well.' (paraphrased) Mark 8:34 says, "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
You cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ without following Him onto 'the cross.' You cannot experience a ressurection without a crucifixion. And in this fallen world, as we make our way through to the restoration, we have to carry the cross! In Luke 9:24 Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."
When things are hard sometimes, one of the lies of hell is, "I don't even want to live, I just want to kill myself." That's just satan twisting a truth of God. You do need to die, but you don't need to take your physical life!
You need to give your life to God!
What needs to die-is your will to control. What needs to die-is your will to determine.
What needs to die-is your will-period!
I guarantee you, that a dead man doesn't struggle much with lust. And a dead shopaholic, she's just not impressed with a credit card anymore! The vain person, when they die, they're not worried about their hair!
So how do we become free from this world? We join Jesus on the cross - willingly!
We follow hard after Christ as passionate Christ followers and we echo what the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ now lives in me because I was crucified and the life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me!"
Today, in the name of Jesus, I am praying that you would connect in a more real world way than ever before: the murder of Jesus to the meaning of your life! The death of His sacrifice to pay for all sins - the freedom that you are offered to not live under the gravity of sin!
The faith that Jesus had toward God is now an invitation for you to have faith toward God. The belief that God did not let love die is the belief that He will not let you die!
The belief that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life," is the belief that you are worth dying for! (John 3:16) So guys, you can live under the gravity of 'The Fall', in self pity and in addiction all of your life if you want to. You can live in rebellion and anger saying "I can do this," but gravity is gonna win in the end - but for Jesus!
If you've never invited Jesus into your heart and given your life to Him, then I want to invite you to do that. It comes as simple a prayer as this: "Dear Lord Jesus, save me, take control of my life! I ask you to come into my life, thank you for dying for me, I give you control of my life, please forgive me of my sins."
When you and I do die (to ourselves) and get ourselves off of our hands, we are then indwelled and inhabited by the Holy Spirit of God, by the very spirit of Jesus Christ, and we live according to the 'fruit of the spirit' (Galatians 5:22-23): "Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Goodness and Self Control." We're free! -Dr. Drew Shofner
Do we live in a Godforsaken world? It feels like that sometimes, but I pray that we can lay a foundation that will help you connect the dots to give you a framework to accurately interpret life in a way that is real and not a part of a grand elaborate lie. The truth is, there is this reality that is the core of the Bible - that God actually became a human being! The word incarnation is a word that talks about the wonder of God becoming one of us! Only in Christianity is there the claim that the infinite God, the one who began life, became human. That He occupied flesh, and that He was broken with us. The reason this matters is because it answers the question - 'Am I alone in a God-forsaken world?'
There are many of you that have started your journey of faith, but the truth is that you and I need to connect the dots of the reality of the incarnation as well. Because it's not just the atheist or the agnostic who lives in a God-less, or God-forsaken world, there are far too many of us who claim to believe and yet we act as though our God were absent!
The most important thing that I can tell you about Jesus is that He is the son of God! John 1 makes it very clear "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God, through Him all things were made." Now pay attention to that, I'm going to give you a framework as we talk about: Creation, The Fall, redemption and restoration. "Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing that has been made was made."
"The word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." The word became flesh - "The Infinite" - inhabited time and became just like us. He became broken with us and He made His dwelling with us. God chose not to stay distant in Heaven, but to come and live with us on earth and to be with us! With is the key word here because the reality is that we have to make a choice about what we are going to do with this Jesus!
The beginning Christmas story, we all know this story, but do we really understand its impact? In Matthew 1:22 the scripture tells us, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us.')"
God - not with the deserving, not with the unbroken, not with the great- but God with us!
In real time, in real life. God with us, not against us! God not hurling our sin in our face. God not mocking our brokenness. God just with us!
Some people will co-opt Jesus, but they will de-deify Him and say He's not God, He's a teacher! Well here's a suggestion, don't follow teachers who lie because Jesus claims to be the very son of God - the incarnation of God!
Jesus was asked point blank by the elders of the law in Matthew 26, The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said this, no ambiguity, "Yes it is as you say." This is what got Him crucified, these words claiming to be God in the flesh were just so offensive and unfamiliar with the Jews that He was with. Jesus went on to say "But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his robe and shouted blasphemy! Do we need to hear anything else? And the people around said no, he's worthy of death!
This outrageous claim that the God of the infinite mystery of the universe had skin, had a face, had a voice! That this God of infinite time and power and majesty became one of us, is the central claim of all of the scriptures. You and I need to decide what we believe about the incarnation and what it means and we need to connect some dots.
Let me give you a big picture framework of how we can connect the dots and make reality of a God who loves us, understandable, in a world that breaks us. How God could be with us and bad things and loss still happen? How is that possible?
In the beginning, the Bible frames life to tell us that God really did create us. "In the beginning was the word," the scripture says in John 1. In Genesis 1, the scripture says that "In the beginning (at the head of all things) God created the heavens and the earth. That everything was without form and that God brought it into being." Now don't get tripped up on how this happened because the truth is I don't know and the simple truth is you don't either!
We arrogant Christians are always missing God just like the Jews did because we think we know more than we know and we're not just going to sit in mystery with a little bit of humility and say, "God you are infinitely more complex, infinitely wiser, my three pounds of gray matter will never be able to wrap around all of your infinite bigness." Now, that doesn't mean I'm not going to use my mind, it just means that I'm not going to pretend that God will fit in it!
We try time and again to fit God into our current understanding of science and the simple truth is, in 100 years our understanding will be different. God created the heavens and the earth, and you were created by Him, but then we have "The Fall"…The Fall is more than just some mythical story of two people in a garden with fig leaves - it's the story of us all!
It's the story of a God who, in the beginning, created life good and joyful and purposeful - with Him! Every day Adam walked the garden in the cool of the day with God Himself, but we looked around and we wanted more, we wanted other, we wanted us! And so we chose our own way and in choosing our own way, we set off a mushroom cloud over all of humanity! Everything was shattered and broken. We caught the virus of sin. We got soul cancer. We hated God, we hated each other, we hated ourselves! We've been trying to work our way out of this brokenness since and we can't!
Death came into the world, death came into your world and you know deep down inside of you that there is the possibility for more than we have. You know deep inside of you that everything is broken and the scripture tells us that what was broken in the beginning is going to be restored in the end and the way that is going to happen is through the redemption.
In the fall you were alienated from God and even alienated from yourself and even your best efforts to 'connect' will never succeed without God! More sex, more money, more positions, nothing will connect the dots for you in a way that will make life work and whole. But God loved and so he sent His one and only son Jesus.
God became a broken human being, sinless, but broken on the cross for us...
...to be with us.
...to redeem us.
...to save us!
Here is where the choice has to be made, at the redemption level. In the redemption story, you have to make a choice to see your need and your sin and accept the redeemer - Jesus - or to reject Him. If you accept Him, then God's redeeming love and power will come to life in your life and He will begin restoring. Then He will lead you to the ultimate restoration - all of life as it was in the beginning. So shall it be in the end and that is the picture of Heaven. The other path of not needing a redeemer, not needing a savior is the path to eternal loss and the scripture calls this hell.
So let me just say this, the incarnation matters because you were created in love for relationship! You are not junk! You are not a mistake! I have known victims of rape who've wondered if they should even be here.
Listen, you were created out of the Father's heart on purpose! God created you and loves you, you are wanted and God considers you worth knowing!
Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." So King David was able to say (not that I'm all that and a bag of chips) but God, you are so great, I can see that you made me on purpose! Guys, I'm telling you, in sin and brokenness, we are alienated from ourselves. The truth is everything is broken beyond repair, that's the fall, but when you understand the beauty of what God did in creation, you understand that you really were created by Him, for relationship, and bear the image of an infinite God!
If we live in a God-forsaken world, then our experience of the world is going to be a God-forsaken experience! It's going to be an experience of loneliness, of abandonment, it's going to be an experience of self-centeredness because everything is up to us. But what if God really did become a human being and what if there really is an answer to the reason of the brokenness of the world? What if our greatest call in life is to trust the love that became flesh and to let God connect all the dots? -Dr. Drew Shofner