Unlimited Access

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1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through 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. 3Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Through my online reader I see headlines from several national newspapers. When I see what interests me I go to it. But after I reach the mark of “ten articles per month” my access is limited. It is so disappointing to click on an article and then see the screen popup with the message: “For only $___ a month you can get unlimited access.” You see my frugality now.

Thankfully, God is not like this. When difficulties and challenges arise we do not run out of access to God. Through Jesus we have access to God the Father. We obtained access to this grace, the peace with God through Jesus Christ, by faith in Him. Access  does not run out. We have unlimited access. This is good news to me because the challenges that produce pain for me have not run out either.

Discipleship through challenges

The text describes a massive feedback loop essential to discipleship: A challenge, and then rejoicing because we have knowledge of a process and the experience of God’s love.

The process: suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The experience: Love poured into our hearts. Jesus Christ mediates our access to God and has made peace. Our access to God is reality by the Holy Spirit. He has poured God’s love into our hearts. God’s love that takes the shame out of our suffering. God’s love that moves us into a growing, persisting, full, and hopeful life when we are hurt.

To rejoice in our sufferings seems ludicrous and impossible were it not for a firm conviction of God’s love for us through Christ Jesus and our unlimited access to Him.

 

Suffering, Injustice, and Faith

“John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’”  Luke 7:18-19

John the Baptist had a crisis of belief.

Faith always has an object, a “who.” Who is your faith in?

Arrested for speaking critically about Herod’s relationships, John sat in prison and had time to wonder. He wondered, “Is Jesus really the one?”

I would have wondered, “Are you the one who is going to rescue me?”

Jesus sent the two disciples back with this message, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good new preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  (Luke 7:22-23)

Not a technical or a theoretical answer. Yet for the ear trained by the Scripture there would be echoes of the prophets.  (See Luke 4:16-21)

The Messiah had come. Jesus is The One.

Suffering can create intense self-awareness. Suffering can bend faith away from the One who loves us and for whom we were made. Jesus did not think less of John for this crisis of belief. In fact, Jesus went on to affirm John and to call him one of the greatest persons ever born. (Luke 7:28) Jesus called John to consider the Scripture and the evidence. Implicit in Jesus’ words is the call to remain full of faith even through the trials.

Passion Week ~ Good Friday ~ barabbas

Reflections on Matthew 27:15-23

Barabbas, what’s in a name?  Son of God.

He got freedom.

Jesus got a cross.

A deal struck in a courtyard.

But this moment had been set ages before

in the court of heaven.

“What shall we do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

“Let him be crucified!”

In that moment the crowd did not see

the true Son of God suffering in love.

Suffering to set the children of God free.

(Josh Garrells singing “Good Friday.”)

The fear of offence never wins.

Scripture:  1 Peter 4:14-19

14If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”  19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Observations:

We are blessed when insulted because of Jesus’ name.
Avoid suffering as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or meddler.
Glorify God when you suffer as a Christian.
There is an urgency about life:  God rightfully judges all people.
Keep entrusting your soul to our faithful Creator even while doing good.

Application:

Several times a week here at UBC I am having to evaluate the statement “I don’t want to offend or shame another person.”  I do believe it can be a sincere desire motivated by love.  However, when self-preservation and the fear of people inform our reluctance to move forward in love, service, and witness we are living without the urgency of God’s big-time and righteous view of our lives.

Love is our best motive.  This is how the Spirit of glory and of God works in our lives.  The presence of God is bigger than the face of our neighbour and our fearful imaginations.  The fear of offense creates defensive positions and never wins.

The standup and improv comedian is taught in his or her craft “to move into the fear.”  I wonder if that’s what we must do as well as followers of Jesus when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel and identifying ourselves as His disciples.  We move into the fear; we serve; we speak up of God’s wonderful love in Christ Jesus.

To lean into this fear we must entrust our lives to God:  “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I entrust my soul to you.  Empower me today to do good.  By your Holy Spirit pour your love into my life and give me courage to serve and to speak up in ways that are consistent with your will, your Son, and your Gospel.  AMEN.

My Heart Under Injustice

Scripture:  1 Peter 2:18-25

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

Observations:

No love of slavery here.  But in thinking about where I am under authority:

Be in under your master with respect — to the good and unjust.

Do this without sinning.

Do this following the example of Jesus, our Lord, our Saviour, our Shepherd who suffered for our sins and brings our healing through His suffering.  vs. 21-25

Application:

No love of slavery here.

To bring this text into today we must think in the realm of employee / employer relations.  How to be holy in that setting?  In our free market we have much more freedom to just leave and find new work if we are being treated badly.  Often though people feel locked in by their situation and finances.

But this remains:  Can I persist in doing good when I am being treated unjustly?

See the example of Jesus.  Experience and reflect on His mercy toward you.

Prayer:

Thank you Heavenly Father for extending so much mercy towards me.  Help me persist in doing good even when there seems to be no pay off.  Help us persist in doing good even in the face of injustice.  May the glory of Jesus and His provision of healing for our hearts in such an unjust world transform our souls.  AMEN.