God’s Love, What Is Your Response?

Many passages of scripture speak of God’s deep love for mankind. In what is perhaps the greatest verse, Jesus states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). Also, we find Paul writing, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And John adds, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). All these passages point to the great love God has for His creation (mankind).

The act of love on God’s part in sacrificing His Son, is the basis of the gospel. It is His plan for man’s redemption from sin. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

It is by this gospel (and no other) message that calls us to salvation. “…because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14). The gospel message holds the key to our salvation. Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16 ).

God gave His Son as a sacrifice for the guilt of our sins. His act of love calls for a loving response from each of us. The most effective way one can demonstrate their love for God, is by obeying the gospel. This is done by dying to your life of sin as you are buried with Christ in baptism and raised up from that watery grave reborn, forgiven, saved in Christ (Rom. 6:3-5).

God has abundantly demonstrated His love for us through the gospel message. The question is, “How are you responding to His love?” Perhaps, at this point, it might be wise to read Paul’s description of the final day of judgment: “…when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

Will Your Anchor Hold?

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?”

This is the opening stanza of the hymn “We Have an Anchor.” It is found in most songbooks that religious organizations use.

This question, “Will your anchor hold” is asked metaphorically to describe one’s life.  We have all used various metaphors on occasion to describe some aspect of ours or someone else’s life. So, when asked if your anchor will hold, we understand it is not a tangible (or actual) device. An anchor is defined as: “a device usually of metal attached to a ship or boat by a cable and cast overboard to hold it in a particular place by means of a fluke that digs into the bottom” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)When this question is asked, we should look to see what it is that fulfills the deeper meaning of the anchor.

Security and stability

What is it that provides the needed “security”, “stability”, and grounding one needs spiritually? The answer to this question should be easy, but too many seem to fail to be properly “anchored”. Hope in God’s Word of course is the answer. The apostle Paul makes that very clear when he said, “If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).

However, many seek their hope from other sources. Obviously the things of the world cannot provide the stability needed, nor the promise of life beyond this one because, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Thus, the physical things of the world will be destroyed when the trumpet sounds. And in 1 Corinthians 3:19, Paul writes that even the intangible things of this world are ineffective as an anchor for the soul. The world’s wisdom will also be destroyed with the world.

What is this anchor?

The Word of God is that in which we are to be anchored. “‘BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.’ And this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25).  So, having having established in what we are to be anchored, let’s make certain we understand each of us have responsibility in this. 

Considering the Word is sure, steadfast and unfailing, if our anchor does not hold, who’s fault is it? It would stand to reason it has to be ours. If we are in a boat, and toss the anchor out on smooth solid rock, it won’t catch, let alone hold. That’s why it is so important to be anchored in the gospel, the Word of God. Once we place our anchor in the Word of God, the only one that can release it is us!  

How an anchor works

Having spent some time fishing on Lake Cachuma and having to hold the boat in place, I know the anchor rope must become slack in order to release the anchor. If the boat maintains the tautness on the anchor (and it is properly seated), the anchor will not release. Now, apply this spiritually and we should see that we must maintain the proper tightness on the anchor, that which keeps us properly moored or connected to God. When we become slack or fail to do as we should, we allow our anchor to slip. Then we begin to drift just as a vessel on the water does. This could be devastating. And from a spiritual standpoint, it is eternally disastrous. Perhaps this is the reason we have so many passages warning Christians to hold fast, or to stand fast. Is this not what a properly engaged anchor does, hold fast?  

In Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so…I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The same applies to us. We see this same idea directed toward the brethren in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 16:13. The point of what Paul is saying is that if they stand fast in the faith, they can remain strong. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 3:8 tells us we are “alive” (spiritually) if we stand fast in Christ.

Leaders must have stability

The elders (bishops) are also to have the characteristic of “stability” as they “hold fast” the Word of God. Titus 1:9 tells us this and tells us how the elders (and all others) can defend the Word of God if they hold it fast. And then we see those Christians of Jewish descent being exhorted to remain anchored in their profession in Hebrews 10:23 . We could site many more places, but these should be enough to show that we have full control of our stability.

“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?” Don’t become slack and let your anchor drift. Seek the strength and stability in His Word.

Excuses, We All Have Them

In Lev. 16:5-10, we see where Israel of old had their scapegoat on whom the sins of the people were placed. In like manner, we have our scapegoats. We just rename them and call them excuses. They are easy and readily available. So, if we want to extricate ourselves from any course of action or fault, we just come up with a good excuse. However, there may be some things about excuses we have not thought much about.

In Lev. 16:5-10, we see where Israel of old had their scapegoat on whom the sins of the people were placed. In like manner, we have our scapegoats. We just rename them and call them excuses. They are easy and readily available. So, if we want to extricate ourselves from any course of action or fault, we just come up with a good excuse. However, there may be some things about excuses we have not thought much about.

Excuses anger God

First, we need to remember excuses anger the Lord. Remember when God called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage? Moses made several. He said, “I can’t do it” (Ex. 3:10-12). Further, Moses said, “They will ask who sent me” (Ex. 3:13-14). He also said, “They will not believe me” (Ex. 4:1). Then came, “I can’t talk well” (Ex. 4:10-11). Usually we read this account and are not impressed by Moses’ excuses. But, our own excuses always sound good to us. We think when we make our excuses God will accept it. However, excuses don’t alleviate the anger of the Lord. The point is not how good or poor the excuses are – but the Lord’s reaction. God was angry with Moses because he was not going to do what God told him to do.

The consequences remain

Second, excuses don’t change the consequences. In the parable of Luke 14:15-24, our Lord told us of three excuses. We might have thought they were good reasons, but the Lord said differently. One man had bought a piece of ground, another a yoke of oxen, and another married a wife. We smile at the shallowness of these, yet the same principle is stated. The excuses did not appease the master (Lk. 14:21). The Lord’s point is that because of the excuse making those who made excuses missed something. No matter how good the excuse, when it is given, it prevents us from partaking of the blessings of the feast. Therefore, the master sent his servants out into the highway and hedges to invite the outcast of society to the feast so that the house was filled.

Responsibility is not removed

Third on the list; excuses don’t eliminate the responsibility even though we like to think they do. Generally, excuses are an attempt to do away with responsibility. “I never was responsible.” Adam and Eve used this. Adam was called by God, “What have you done? Have you eaten what I told you not to eat?” While Adam must finally admit he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, before he does, he tries to excuse his responsibility. “The woman gave it to me. It is her fault. And, You gave me the woman, so the fault lies somewhere between You and Eve, but not me” (Genesis 3:9-11). Eventually, Adam had to admit he had eaten. Eve had to bear her share of the burden for encouraging Adam. But Adam was still guilty. In the final analysis the responsibility is mine. Crying about it won’t change a thing.

Most are not truth

Consider, what is the true nature of excuses? Most of the time they are not the truth. Excuses have been defined as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.”  They do not really tell why we do or don’t do a thing. So, we manufacture an excuse; take something that is part of the truth and blow it up to make another thing more important. Most of the time we make excuses because we do not want to do or say something. We don’t say, “I didn’t want….” so we make excuses.

Finally, since most people easily see through our flimsy layer of excuses, how much more does our Father see right through them to our heart? Our great danger is in deceiving ourselves. We lie to ourselves and cut ourselves off from ever solving the problem from which we are excusing ourselves. The remedy is to get our “want to” right. Face the truth about our excuses and rid ourselves of them.

I Am What I Am

As we call to memory Saul of Tarsus, we see a man who was very zealous. A devout, learned man of the scriptures, who persecuted the early church because of his love for God. The book of Acts records, “When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul…Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death” (Acts 7:58 – 8:1).

Without question, the Lord saw something special in this young man. Because He came to Saul while he was on his way to Damascus, having obtained letters from the Jewish authorities allowing him to continue persecuting the church. The vision that Saul encountered that day changed his life forever. Saul obeyed the direction of the Lord, being baptized while in Damascus. What a turn of events.

The apostle Paul was one who made a difference in the history of the church. He carried that same desire to please the Lord he had before, but now it was being used for good. Paul did suffer many things for the Lord’s name, yet never seemed to complain. In fact, he wrote, “for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). Light affliction? Paul suffered a great deal as illustrated in his own words for us in the 11th chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians. Later, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, he said, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil 4:11).

No doubt, some of Paul’s most inspirational words are found in 1 Cor 15:10. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God’s grace is that which gives each of us hope. Paul, self-proclaimed as the chief sinner, was able to see what a gift God’s grace is. It is too precious a gift to let go in vain. As God’s grace has appeared to all men, let it not be in vain. After all, we are all sinners and are in need of this precious gift.