FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 16, number 52, December 28, 2017
“. . . so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” -John 17:23
Do You Know the Father’s Love?
As you look back over your life, perhaps you can say that you have made poor decisions in the “big three” of marriage, money, and children. And perhaps now you are reaping a whirlwind. Maybe you have serious regrets. You now realize you spent far too much time on your work, not taking the time to nurture your children in the faith, and they no longer walk with the Lord. Or maybe you ran roughshod over your wife, showing little sensitivity to her needs, and you have lost her emotionally. Maybe you berated your husband for so long that he no longer moves toward you emotionally, that he seems content to sit in front of the television for hours each night, lost in his own world. Maybe you made foolish decisions with money and now find yourself drowning in an ocean of debt which keeps you awake at night. Or maybe you wish you could take back all the harsh things you said to your son, and you now realize he has a hole in his heart, that he has little motivation to work a regular job, that he seems content to waste his time on frivolous pursuits. Though you now are in Christ Jesus, knowing your sins are forgiven, that they have been taken from you as far as the east is from the west, the fact remains that the consequences of your sins are still very much with you. You cannot extricate yourself from this persistent principle—whatever you sow, this you will also reap (Galatians 6:7).
Is there any hope for you, my friend, as you begin a new year? Can you begin 2018 with a sense of joy, expectation, and freedom? Yes you can if you heed the powerful words of Jesus in His prayer in John 17. I especially wish now to direct your attention to the marvelous words printed above in the heading. It is within this context that Jesus prays a three-fold benefit for your eternal salvation. Firstly, He says that you have the same presence as Jesus—“the glory which You have given Me I have given to them,” (John 17:22a). The Shekinah was made manifest numerous times in the Old Testament. Abraham saw it as God’s presence passed through the cut sacrifices (Genesis 15:9ff). Jacob saw it in his dream of angels ascending and descending on the ladder, saying, “Surely God was in this place and I did not know it,” (Genesis 28:16). Moses saw it at Mt. Sinai when Yahweh spoke to him from the burning bush which was not consumed (Exodus 3:2). Israel saw it when the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). Jesus told His disciples that it was for their benefit that He must leave them, for this would bring the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 16:7). You now have the indwelling Holy Spirit at all times.
Secondly, He says that you have the same power as Jesus—“that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me,” (John 17:22b-23a). Five other times in John 17 Jesus mentions His being sent by the Father. God sent Jesus who knew no sin to become sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus says that He came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Christ’s death was glorious and effectual. It washes away our sin (Psalm 103:10-14). It removes the wrath of God (1 John 4:10). It reconciles us to the Father (Colossians 1:19-22). It redeems us from slavery to sin (Ephesians 1:7). It justifies us (Romans 5:1). It sanctifies us (1 Corinthians 1:2). And it one day will glorify us (1 Corinthians 15:22).
And thirdly, He says that you have the same love the Father has for the Son—“and loved them, even as You have loved Me,” (John 17:23b). Can there be anything more beautiful than this! Not only has God loved you as long as He has existed (Jeremiah 31:3, John 6:37-40, Romans 8:29, Ephesians 1:4-5), but He loves you with the same love that He has for His Son. The perfect Trinitarian love is now yours. This, of course, does not mean you are God, but it does mean the qualitative love of the Father—the desire for communion (longing to be with us), the complacency (by this Theologians mean God’s complete satisfaction with us), and His gracious benevolence (a complete absence of malice, harshness, or cruelty, while at the same giving us everything richly to enjoy).
Dear Christian—you must always remember and apply God’s love to your soul, heart, and mind. But you may object, bringing to mind all your failures, your poor decisions, your past sins and their paralyzing consequences, and your recurring sins by which you seem to have no means of escape. And how do you apply the Father’s qualitative love to your present situation and consequences? You must talk to yourself. And what must you say? Try these words—“While I am completely responsible for my actions (100% man), it remains true that God is sovereign over all things (Isaiah 25:1, 26:1-4, Psalm 115:3). There is 100% God and 100% man.” And you must say to yourself, “God, I know You reprove me and discipline me (Hebrews 12:10-11, Revelation 3:19), similarly to how I discipline my children when they disobey me. I do it for their good, to promote holiness in them, and I know You do the same for me.” But you should also say, “I know You work all things together for my good because You have called me to Yourself (Romans 8:28); and though I have suffered the consequences of my sin, I know You will even turn this to good in due time. I know all Your blows, all your chastisements, are motivated by Your love. I know that You are completely wise (Romans 11:33), that You never make mistakes (Isaiah 46:9-11). I know You are filled with all goodness and beneficence (Psalm 34:8). Therefore I will go on with my life each day, believing that I can rejoice always in the Lord (Philippians 4:4, James 1:2-4). I can live with the expectancy that You will bring good from everything, that no good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). And I can live with freedom from guilt and shame, knowing that it was for freedom that Christ set me free, though I must never allow my freedom in Christ to become an opportunity for fleshly living, but rather to use it as a means of serving others,” (Galatians 5:13).
On May 22, 2008 Steven Curtis Chapman, the contemporary Christian singer, and his family were celebrating the recent engagement of their daughter to be married. One of their sons was soon to graduate from high school, and their beautiful five year old adopted daughter, Maria, had recently celebrated her fifth birthday. One of their sons drove into their driveway in Franklin, Tennessee and did not see Maria running eagerly toward him. He accidentally ran over her, and she died a few hours later. The Chapman family, though grief stricken, was bolstered by this glorious fact—God their Father loves them as He loves His own Son. What else could truly sustain them in their sorrow! All God’s blows are love. He is all wise, all good, all powerful. Trust Him! Begin this coming new year with a sense of joy, expectancy, and freedom, believing that He is directing your every step, that He powerfully works all things to good, even your sin and failures.
If however, you are not yet a Christian, then none of what I have just said applies to you. You are still dead in your sins. You are without hope, without God in this world. These glorious truths are applied only to those who embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Christianity is quite discriminating. You are either in the kingdom or you are not. What must you do? You must see your own sinfulness, your estrangement from the Father. You must bow humbly before Him, asking Him for mercy and grace, asking Him to apply the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to your own heart, soul, mind, and will. If you do so in repentance and faith, then He most assuredly will take you to be His, making His love known to you powerfully.