My dad made me this silver cross inset with my birthstone – for a reason!
I still vividly remember the day I was checking out at the grocery store and the checker asked me about the cross necklace I was wearing, “Is that just jewelry, or are you really a Christian?” His piercing questions has stayed with me for nearly four decades, because it’s the question that eventually comes to each of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus: is it just a name we wear, or do we really give the authority and purpose of our life over to the purposes of Jesus, the One Lord and Savior, and God’s Kingdom. If people don’t ask us that question here, God certainly will one day.
I’ve been a daughter, sister, student, wife, mother, teacher, speaker, writer, call center answerer, reservations agent, bank receptionist, Cub Scout Den Leader, and playground argument-controller, but in all these things, the One Thing that is true about me is that I call Jesus, Y’shua, both the Savior and Lord of my life.Whether I’m praying with that checker who asked me his question about my necklace to see if I would actually pray with him, or mediating the ongoing arguments between Isaac and Sheila on the playground, or speaking to women in classes at church (where it’s easy), or finding recycled junk for Cub Scout crafts, or at the Zoo showing visiting kids from schools how amazingly interwoven and inter-dependent and precisely fit for their niches the world’s creatures are, or encouraging a learning-disabled boy in his conquest of fractions, or tucking my sons into bed at night, or holding my tongue when my husband tries to pick a fight and loving him anyway, the over-arching question to me every minute of every day is, “Is that just a facade you wear, or is Jesus truly Lord of your life, ALL of your life?”
That is, in truth, the one question that will eventually matter to each one of us. I’ve long believed that, if Jesus isn’t everything to me, then he’s nothing at all to me. All of history, all of life comes down to what I/we believe and accept as vital in our own lives about the Cross of Calvary and the One who was nailed to it to pay for the sins of all mankind.
Who is Jesus?
“For he (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Jesus), in whom we have redemption,the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[a] your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:13-23 NIV
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “So what?” you ask. ” What does that matter?”
“The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2) “There is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)
Why does that matter? Why does Jesus matter? I’ve never flat-out stated this in any of my posts before, but there is a literal Hell- existence apart from, without the Presence of God, which will be pure torment – and there is a literal Heaven – eternally forever vibrantly alive in the glorious, joyfully loving Presence of God. You WILL be in one existence or the other after your body dies, because God made the spirit within you to live forever. You have only two possible destinations, and there is only ONE WAY to be united in love with God forever: through the freely given blood of Jesus poured out paying the penalty for your sin (which “earns” you Hell) on the Cross. So I ask you:
1) Are you a sinner, incapable in and of yourself to be so totally holy and pure and sinless at all times that you DESERVE on your own merits to have a living relationship with the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Transcendent, Immutable, Holy, Pure, Righteous and Just and Merciful Creator of all things? I KNOW I’m not, and I answered that question Jesus put to me on February 20, 1972: “You know I died for the world, but do you know I died for YOU?” In the decades since I’ve seen even more clearly and potently why I needed and need everyday a Savior whose purity and righteousness and mercy covers every dumb, stupid, selfish,thoughtless or angry thing I have ever or will ever do, think, or say. THAT alone, Jesus’ Blood on the cross and His resurrection from the grave is THE ONLY WAY to a living, vibrant, everlasting relationship with God Almighty forever, adopted as His child, back in the relationship He intended all of mankind to have with Him when He created life. (and no, the pronoun “he” doesn’t bother me a bit or sound sexist at all, ladies. My earthly father was a “he” and I have no trouble believing that God created both he-s and she-s out of the totality of His nature)
2) Can you get over yourself enough to accept and gladly cling to the ONE perfect substitutionary sacrifice to cover ALL of your sins? Can you deal with the fact that there is nothing you can do, absolutely nothing, to “make” yourself acceptable to a purely Holy God? That is SO hard for us “You can do it – pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it done” Americans, and I’d venture to guess, for every person on the planet who would LIKE to be acceptable completely to God on her or his own merits.
3) Can you believe that yes, God loves you passionately even in your imperfections and sin, loves you enough to offer Himself through Jesus as the ONE open door into relationship and fellowship with Him? Can you humble yourself and swallow your pride enough to gladly receive a freely given gift you couldn’t possible afford to “buy” for yourself?
4) If you responded “yes” to questions 1-3, can you accept that living in relationship with God through Jesus changes, must change if you truly mean to be God’s child, the way you relate to people and possessions and position in life?
Someone dear to me said to me, “Jesus dying on the cross never meant to me what it means to you, and I knew it would come back one day to ‘bite me.'” If Jesus is nothing and no one more than merely a historical figure, then that statement might make sense. Everyone agrees that Plato, Socrates, Julius Caesar, and Thomas Edison actually lived, and Plato, and Socrates wrote some interesting philosophy, Julius Caesar left journals of his conquests, and we can read notes of Edison’s experiments with electricity, which did make a profound change in our daily lives. But if you only believe that jesus existed as an historical figure and said some things worth considering, then you have no idea who Jesus was and is.
Neither Plato, Socrates, Caesar nor Edison have the power and the authority to bring you into a genuine, living, joyfully connected in love and life-transforming relationship with the Author and Creator of the universe. Jesus dying on the cross is the One most singularly meaningful, vital, pivotal point of human history, and if it means only something in theory or a fact of history of little personal importance to you, then I wonder if it means anything at all to you, or more pointedly, if Jesus means nothing to you. If you went forward at an altar call at a church or crusade because intellectually it sounded like a good thing to do, something like buying flood insurance if you live near a river, then you entirely missed the most vital, crucial question of your life: do you know that, on your own merits, you can never be “a pretty good person” enough to genuinely know, encounter, be in relationship with THE perfectly holy Good who intentionally made you out of elements common to all matter but with an eternal spirit waiting to know Him as the Father who loves and longs for you?
Peter explained to Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea who was a God-seeking man, “Jesus…commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:42-44 NIV
And Paul proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4: 12 NIV
What does “saved” mean? It means entering into an eternal relationship with Everlasting God, the verdict on all the dumb, thoughtless, hurtful, selfish, cruel, mindless things you’ve ever done that do keep you apart from the perfectly sinless God rendered “NOT guilty” only, solely, completely because the sinless Jesus paid the penalty for ALL of the sin of ALL mankind, if only we individually recognize our desperate, yes desperate, need and personal inadequacy and receive that astounding free gift of love. Only one God, only one Jesus, his exact representation in a human body, only ONE WAY to relationship with God through Jesus.
Every message I’ve ever spoken, every post and book I’ve ever written, every conversation with someone (strangers included) that culminated in a prayer, every turkey sandwich I’ve taken to the homeless, every child I’ve helped to master fractions or spelling, every preschooler I’ve hugged, every hello and thanks and calling a clerk by name, everything I’ve done somehow reflects, positively or negatively, my relationship to Jesus and how I answer the question of his importance to me. Oh, for sure some days I’ve blown it, and blown it big-time; that’s precisely why I NEED Jesus. But my aim, my goal, my fervent hope is that I can be a vessel through whom God can move in love, validation, hope, occasionally confrontation in love, acceptance, encouragement, and God’s truth lifted, lived, and illuminated in Jesus. Amen, amen to the One Thing that matters.
Who is Jesus to you? How do you answer that one question? How will you live out your answer if it truly changes everything for you?
A “…BUT…” to pray (even if you’ve prayed this before): Almighty God, loving
Father, I see how truly impossible it is for me to ever be “good enough” or do enough to earn or merit making my own way into relationship with you, but you created me for that kind of relationship. I see that something is very wrong, out of order with your original design for me even if I’ve “followed the rules” for the most part and even if I’m a “pretty good person.” Even if all that is true of me, I’m not without sin, flaw, beyond angry remarks or hurtful thoughts, like when I _______________________________. BUT when I come to you through Jesus’ death on the cross, you don’t see me through my sin; you see me through Jesus’ love, so God, right now I’m saying ______________________________________________________________ , accepting the gift of Jesus not as my “flood insurance” but as the one who loves me incredibly enough to die for me, the only one who could do this, now not just my salvation but the Lord and King and rightful guide of my life, and I say a glad thank you, God, thank you, Jesus, thank you that you _________________________ so now I know I can ____________________________! In Jesus’ name, hallelujah, and Holy Spirit, speak to me now and be alive within me forever ___________________________________________.