I have been using the YouVersion Bible app for a number of years now. I wake up in the morning, and the first thing I do is grab my phone and open it up. It has become a habit.
For the last two years, I have used year long reading plans by which I have read through the Bible from beginning to end. Last year I read it book by book. This year I read it in chronological order. (Did you know the books are not in chronological order?)
For 2021, I have chosen another (almost) yearlong reading plan that focuses on how Jesus is revealed in Scripture from beginning to end.
Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus didn’t just fulfill the Old Testament Scripture; Moses (the Law) and the Prophets is all about him! (Luke 24:27) The story of Scripture finds its denouement in Jesus! Thus, I have decided to use a yearlong plan that focuses on Jesus throughout the Bible, from start to finish.
I am reminded this morning of Psalm 1, which says that a person “whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night” is “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither….” (Ps. 1:2-3)
Jesus, having fulfilled the Law God gave Moses (a law we cannot hope to fulfill in ourselves), has demonstrated for us a love which is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom. 13:10) We are, then, to love our neighbors as ourselves just as Jesus loved us demonstrably in giving up his own life for us. “Love one another…. [a]s I have loved you” is the commandment of new covenant (John 13:34), which is the outgrowth and the ultimate fulfillment of the old covenant.
The year, 2020, will go down as one year that we will never, ever forget. History books will be written about it no doubt. It was a year of tribulation, unrest, angst, fear, anger, isolation and polarization, but not all is dark.
Jesus, the light of the world. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. In him is life, and that life is our light. (John 1:4). “[That] light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
God became flesh in the person of Jesus and lived humbly among us, demonstrating His love for us, not only in life, but in yielding Himself to death. In dying, He overcame death in human flesh, rising again to show us what He has in store for those who would yield to Him – to those who would invite Him into their lives.
He left us the Holy Spirit, the seal of God’s promise who becomes God in us. He is available to all who are willing to yield to Him and the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, as we love God above all. In giving up ourselves to God, we gain everything. In giving up the world, we lose nothing.
I have been thinking lately about the Israelites who were always tempted to worship other gods. I think of the early Christians who were tempted to seek after hidden knowledge that promised to make them gods. I think of modern people who seek psychic knowledge and New Age spirituality (which is nothing new) that promises life, knowledge, power, fulfillment and benefit without God.
I wonder, “Why?”
Why would anyone seek anything other than the God of Creation? The God who made all that is s seen and unseen, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. Why settle for something less? Why go to anything that is created rather than the One who created everything?
The very point and the promise of Jesus is that God has given us a way to access Him directly … We don’t need any medium or intercessor or hidden way to God. God has opened the front door for us!
Jesus stands at the door to our hearts and knocks! (Rev. 3:20) He is waiting for us to open the door and let him in. Why would anyone want to go through the back door?
Sure, like Eve in the garden, we like the idea of “doing it ourselves”, of doing it our own way. The great deception is that we can do better on our own. If only we can obtain the right knowledge, we will be like God!
It’s a lie. It may seem good, but it’s an illusion. It’s a mirage. It isn’t real.
The great temptation is to the desire to be like gods, captains of our own destinies, self-fulfilled, self-determined, self-controlled.
Who among us really believes we can achieve that? Really….
Think about it. Did you create the universe? Did people by their collective will create the universe? Obviously, not….
What makes us think we can create (or recreate) ourselves by our own wills into anything other than what we are?
We are finite, limited beings. We don’t know all there is to know. The best we can do on our own is grope around in the dark. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we wouldn’t know it even if we did.
How do we know anything unless it is made available to us to know? We don’t control that. We can only trust and depend on an agency that is beyond us, and what better agency than God who made us?
In our position as limited beings, why would we seek to trust and rely on anything that is less than the Creator of all things? Who would do that in their right minds? “No thank you God of Creation, I will worship this tree.” Tree, mountain, sun, universe (ourselves)… it doesn’t matter.
Why would we worship the creation, ignoring its Creator? …
Unless, of course, the Creator was so beyond us that we have no hope of connection.
The Good News is precisely this: the very force and agency by which the universe was created, emanating from God Himself – the very Word (command) of God by which every material thing was created – “became flesh and dwelt among us”.[i] He was called Jesus. In him “all the fulness of God” was displayed in bodily form for us to see. (Col. 2:9)
Distilled down from Creator of the universe to flesh, we see that the essence of God is love. (1 John 4:7-21)
We would likely never have really understood that or really known that but for the fact that God stripped Himself of all that separated Himself from us and entered into our world in human form like us.
He came bringing to us the promise that, if we yield ourselves to Him, if we seek Him (relationship with Him) first, He will give us the very desires of our hearts. (Matt. 6:28-34) And the thing is, we don’t really even know what that is. We seek to find fulfillment in all kinds of things, but they don’t fulfill. The fact is that we can’t even imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9)
But we know we can trust Him because He didn’t hold back even his own life for us. Having stripped Himself of all the privilege he enjoyed as Creator of the universe, he not only became flesh and blood; he gave Himself up for us in the human body he took on … for us! No greater love has anyone than to give himself up for another. (John 15:13)
God demonstrated that kind of love for us to invite us to have relationship with Him. Why would we, then, choose something else?
Why indeed, but we do. My heart as well as yours has a natural tendency to seek its own fulfillment.
As I look forward to 2021, my aim is to know God better and yield to Him more. I hope to grow in my understanding and appreciation of these things.
I hope to continue to write about this journey I am on. I hope you will hang in there with me. I know I don’t always “get it right”, but I strive to talk hold of that for which God took hold of me, and I hope you will visit me on the journey in 2021.
[i] 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.