How Real Is Jesus?

…Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:6.

So how real is  God to us?

How much do we really believe the stories and teachings we read in the Bible?  I mean, our understanding of what we believe should define how real our view of the God in Scripture is—and when I say “define” I mean demonstrate in action.

How far do we take our faith in Christ?

When we read the stories of how Jesus raised the dead, healed the sick, fed the hungry and generally blew away all the natural laws we thought were set in bedrock, how much do we take them to heart for our own lives?

The promise above is crazy unless God can really fulfill it.  There’s no point believing in a God who can’t perform or take our lives to their final outcome, is there?  Think about it:  If God performs miracles, then what’s standing in the way of our moving forward on the path set before us with confidence?

James 1:6-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

James 2:18, 19, 26 But someone will say,  “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Being afraid of failure stops me dead in my tracks.  I have always claimed to hate failing the Lord, yet I think using His name in this “motivation” sometimes masks the fact I don’t want to look like I believed in vain.  If that sounds unclear, let me make clearer:  I hesitate to risk at times because I don’t want to look foolish spiritually, and that is because I’m judging the success or failure of a spiritual venture based on the world’s profit/loss perspective.  For instance, every prophet, person or martyr who died for serving God looked like a failure right?  Jesus looked like a failure, as did most of the apostles, if you get right down to it.  I’m scared to look like I failed in the eyes of those I value because I’m afraid they’re right.  And what if they are?

We’re faced with choices in the Kingdom of Heaven’s Investment Firm that don’t serve to increase our standing in the world much, if at all.  I have to admit, it makes me really nervous sometimes to step out—especially since I’ve been chastised by good Christians for the apparent “failures” of the past.  Yet any adventure means risk; that’s why we call these journeys “adventures” because they aren’t safe nor are the outcomes sure beyond a calculated risk.  We have to step out in faith and hope that circumstances bring about success.  In Christ, however, how we judge success or failure isn’t based on the same criteria.  The disciples preached the gospel and were eventually martyred for it.  By 99.9% of people’s judgment about what makes a person successful or not, this outcome seems like a big setback.

Jesus, on the other hand (the right hand of the Almighty), sees their outcome differently.

A person who obeys His command to preach the word in season and out of season (a message sent through the apostle Paul) then dies for their efforts is celebrated as a hero in God’s kingdom.  Why?  Because they did the job and left the results to Him.  Working in God’s field means we aren’t worried about the harvest nor are we responsible for the profit margin.  The only problem for us comes when we care about the work so much that we begin to worry about the profit and take things into our own hands by using methods we know are tried and true in the human experience.  In God’s work, He gets all the glory for the outcome.  What we receive is bonuses for doing our part in that work, but in reality we aren’t ,needed just included.  Or may be I should amend that conclusion:  He could just “Wow!” the whole earth with a display of His power and dispel all doubt, but then most would serve Him without love, devotion or any real willingness from a heart given over to His way.

That last truth might sound like it’s a small problem in view of the greater issue of establishing the kingdom of God, but it’s not.  In fact, for Jesus, it was the most important issue about the judgment.  Remember the sheep and goats parable?  A lot of the goats were actually workers in the field of God along side the sheep.  The difference between the sheep and goats came down to being known by God—which is an intimate knowing of Him living inside us.  It might sound like a superfluous distinction but for Him it’s the most vital contrast.  A heart given over to His way of processing and living is different than someone who buys into the contest for the prize at the end of the age.  One does it for a reward at the end of time, the other does it because they want the reward of His presence now.  One wants the crown, eternal life and whatever loot they can garner through high performance, the other considers Jesus to be the reward.

With this contrast it’s easy to see why some lose their faith from lack of “evidence” when their prayers aren’t answered the way they expected.

What if God chooses not to heal?

What if God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we asked them?

What if God doesn’t perform the miracles we put all our faith into believing?

Well, we need to ask this question:  Who’s in charge, God or us?

We need wisdom from heaven, that’s evident. 

James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Anyone looking for the reward of eternal life alone misses the point of the gospel.  Jesus told the Jews,  “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,  ‘Here it is,’  or  ‘There it is,’  because the kingdom of God is within you.” That word “within” would be better translated “among” or “in the midst of you” and the “you” is a collective pronoun not singular.  The kingdom of God is where the King is; and if the King is living in the hearts of His people, then there is where we will find the kingdom of God—among His people.  The Rich Young Ruler turned away from Jesus because he was looking for physical evidence of his own salvation through what he could earn.  In contrast, the adulteress followed Him gladly because the world held nothing for her but loss or Jesus’ acceptance.  The kingdom of heaven is nothing without a “king” to rule the “dom” part of this equation.

When I build a house, I can see the results pretty early on.  At first, however, it just looks like a bunch of dirt being piled in one place or another during the foundation phase.  Once the walls go up, it’s easier to see the structure for its potential finished look.  But even then what kind of trim or paint we use will change the final aspect of it.

So with the kingdom of God.  Without all the different personalities and perspectives in the church, we inevitably get a skewed outlook of Jesus.  The only complete picture is taken with the whole body of believers in a snapshot or painting.  To look at one believer with all his or her warts and brokenness the picture of Christ looks disjointed, broken and unwholesome.  Taken as a whole, however, with all these warty, broken people completing in each other whatever the other lacks, we see a beautiful picture of how the kingdom and mind of God works.  We don’t all have to agree to be one.  We don’t all have to look alike to be family.  We don’t all have to work in the same space to be accomplishing for the same goals and Master (Paul and Barnabas had to split over a “sharp disagreement” for example).

The outcome of the work of God is His responsibility.  Ours is to be faithful members of His body and continue working His works.

So how does God carry on this work in us?  How do we follow Him in faith through the ups and downs of our lives?

Just like any investment we will buy stock in the Kingdom of Heaven Savings and Loans in order to get a return on the “heavenly money.”  The problem comes when we dictate what that “return” should look like.  If Jesus told us,  “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world,” then being doubtful about our circumstances when it looks like we are going to fall is faithless.  If trouble and tribulation is a part of the experience of those who follow after Christ, then to expect something else is contrary to our faith in His Word.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or sword?  As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39.

In the body of Christ we find the reality of heaven lived out.  If we willingly take on the role of being visible for the Master with all our warts, sores and brokenness as well as growth in the wholeness His presence brings about in us on display, the presence of God in the body of Christ, making us whole individually and as a group, will demonstrate to the world how real God is to us.

How real is your God?  Can your God do this?


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One Response to “How Real Is Jesus?”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Let’s just all be bold enough to risk it for Christ!

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