Keeping the Relationship Fresh
Christ's mercies are fresh every morning, but what are we doing to tap into that abundant mercy? Too many times we expect our relationship with Jesus to just happen, but like any relationship, it takes some effort.
Nothing will ever replace reading scripture, but sometimes reading someone else's perspective, and hearing how God spoke to them can help us experience those mercies with the freshness our Father intends.
Below you'll find some of the "aha" moments I've had with Christ, and I pray they refresh you as much as they did me!
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Human nature seems to be pretty consistent. Even after walking with Jesus for nearly three years, eating with Him, hearing Him teach and watching Him suffer, the eleven still had only one thing on their mind. Their only concern was Israel restored to the glory she had when David was king.
In their defense, it had been ingrained in them since childhood. All of Judea expected a conquering Messiah. Like most of us, they probably only studied the parts of scripture that confirmed their beliefs. The suffering servant of Isaiah 52 and 53 probably didn’t make the cut. Those prophecies probably didn’t make sense.
The whole scenario reminds me of how often my prayers focus on my own interests. It’s not that God doesn’t want to hear my heart. But like the disciples, when I focus on my little world, I’m missing the bigger picture of the restoration Jesus came to bring.
For instance, if we skip over to Acts 3 we see Peter’s famous, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you,” and the lame beggar walks. When we read this we focus on Peter’s ability to do miracles and the restoration of a man’s ability to walk. But read on. What if the healing was merely a way for Peter to begin to spread the good news of Jesus. Would any of the folks in that town have listened to him had he not first healed a man who’d never taken a step in his life? We stop at the headings and chapter division in the newer versions of scripture, and overlook the true miracle. And by doing so we miss these words deep into chapter four, “the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”
The lame man rejoiced, and so he should! What a blessing! What a wonderful personal story of restoration. And while God was equally excited for the man, that healing was just a drop in the bucket, because God’s man goal is the Kingdom. Jesus came to restore the original Kingdom, Eden, all of humankind.
God does give us individual blessings. I never want to be ungrateful for those. But I also don’t want to be like those first eleven followers prior to the Holy Spirit. I never want to be so concerned with what’s going on in my little world that I miss the fact God is orchestrating a million scenarios all at once to advance His glory and to restore my true home, the Kingdom of Heaven.
Nazareth or Capernaum
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.
Everyone in Nazareth spoke well of Him. The town thought it was cool that Joseph’s son could speak with such grace. At first glance it seems like Jesus is being a bit tough on His hometown. But when we read their reaction, we know right away He was right again.
Mary’s neighbors could have easily responded with, “We’re different than our ancestors, we can see you’ve been sent from God.” Any of those leaders could have stepped up and recognized their friend’s authority like the folks from Capernaum did just a few verses later. Any inkling of recognition that those folks Elijah and Elisha had to deal with were in the wrong might have been the difference.
But Nazareth was only in it for the miracles. I think they spoke well of Him just to get a cut of what they looked at as Jesus’ lottery ticket. And when He didn’t give them what they thought they deserved, they kicked Him out of town.
They’d watched Him grow up. Surely they’d noticed He was a little different than all the rest of the kids in town. But even they had, they didn’t want what made Him different, they certainly didn’t want changed lives.
It’s the same today. Churches are full of folks from Nazareth. They don’t want to change, they just want the blessings Jesus has to offer. I wonder if that’s why the institution is so unattractive to newcomers. If the people who call themselves the body of Christ aren’t more like Christ than the rest of the world, then why bother? If we’re just clamoring after miracles that don’t make life more abundant, what’s the point? After all, what good is a healing or deliverance if the heart is still bitter and the spirit discouraged?
Every day is a day to choose. We can choose to be like the people of Nazareth, the kind who just want Jesus for the external things He can provide. Or we can be like the people of Capernaum, a forty mile walk from Jesus’ hometown by land, but just an 18 inch difference from head to heart in attitude.
The people of Capernaum recognized Jesus’ authority. They weren’t just impressed by His teaching, they were amazed by it. People of Capernaum took notes, they passed along what they’d learned and they planted it in their hearts so folks could see the change. And because they recognized Jesus was more than just the carpenter’s son, bigger than just a miracle maker, the village of Capernaum witnessed deliverance and healing.
So where do you live? Do you reside in a land of appreciation of Jesus’ words or amazement? Is He simply a respected member of the community or have you embraced His authority? He wants to be your friend, but have you kept Him only as friend and neglected to recognize Him as Lord.
I’ll ask you again . . . where do you live? Why don’t you come with me . . . I’m moving to Capernaum.
The Rest of the Story
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,
as though God were making his appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Have you ever read a book, reached the end and were surprised to discover it was book one of a series? Or perhaps it was a movie or a TV show. The cliffhanger kept you in suspense until the next release. You knew there was more, probably something even better than you’d seen or read in the first installment, and you were chomping at the bit waiting for the rest of the story.
Paul Harvey used to have a radio broadcast called “The Rest of the Story.” He shared a true story about an ordinary person or incident, and then he’d tell us he’d be right back with “the rest of the story.” After a commercial or three, we’d hear a heartwarming or inspiring ending to give a nation hope and restore our faith in humanity.
I think Second Corinthians 5 is like that. It’s “the rest of the story.”
As a Christian, I can never be too appreciative of the fact Jesus left the beauty and perfection of heaven to walk on this earth and experience life as a human so we can be sure He understands us. His death and suffering on my behalf leaves me speechless, and the resurrection is too marvelous for words. When we share the gospel, we generally tell our friends these extraordinary truths along with the message of Christ’s astonishing gifts of love and forgiveness. But too often, we leave it there, and we don’t even end the conversation with a hint that there’s more.
And while that’s enough, it’s not the end. For a long time I lived in the incomplete truth of the gospel of forgiveness. And I never want to take away from the importance of that truth; however, there’s more. When we never move past forgiveness, we tend to think of it from a more human perspective. I understand that just because I forgive someone it doesn’t mean they will receive my forgiveness or want to ever be my friend again. In our world forgiveness doesn’t always equal reconciliation. So it’s imperative we share the ministry of reconciliation when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You see, I’m not just forgiven. I’m more than made new. My relationship with the One who created me is restored. Christ calls me friend (John 15:15). The Sovereign Ruler of the Universe walks me with in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). His Spirit speaks to my heart. My tears of regret become laughter, my sorrow becomes joy, and Jesus invites me to dance with Him. (Jeremiah 31:13) My Savior and Redeemer, the One who paid the price for my ransom, the Father I hurt beyond measure when I wasted the treasures He gave me anxiously waited for my return, and not only did He forgive me, He ran out to meet me, brought me back into the Garden of His Estate and gave me a huge share of the inheritance just as if I’d never left.