WHO IS GOD? WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? WHAT IS THE COST OF FOLLOWING JESUS?

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni (from here (en.wikipedia.org)).

Because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), these are especially lonely times for some people. Solitude leads to contemplation. For most of us, there are four big questions.

–Why am I here?
–What is right and wrong?
–What brings me meaning
–What happens to a human being when I die?
List from Ravi Zacharias (an expert in Christian apologetics) who says there are Four Questions To Answer In Life.(=>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfb5-7mtC-8)

Imagine you have lived alone, in solitude — without anyone — all of your life. You might wonder why you exist, but what would be the significance of right or wrong? If it felt good, why wouldn’t you do it? The only person you could sin against would be yourself. Meaning might concern you, but you could not make anyone else happy, except yourself, and that would be a problem. It is often much more difficult to make our self happy than it is for someone else to bring us a smile. Therefore, how could you avoid seeing your life as meaningless?

Death? Would you fear death? Would you know what death was? Because you had seen an animal die? Perhaps, but if you had never experienced the loss of someone you care about, how would death concern you? Even if you did know something about death, how much would you fear ending your own meaningless life?

Jesus Christ said we are not alone. He is the God who made us, and even He is not alone. He is part of the Trinity, and we are made in His image. He did not make us to be alone; He gave us each other.

  1. Why am I here? To glorify God. To love God, and to be loved by God.
  2. What is right and wrong? Our Maker uses the Bible to reveal Himself and what He wants from us. The Bible makes it clear that if we love God we will obey Him. In fact, God gave us the capacity to obey Him without the knowledge of the Bible. He gave us hearts to love each other so that we know when we hurt each other. He gave us Creation too so that we would know that He exists and that He cares about those He has made.
  3. What brings me meaning? The Bible says we gain meaning by glorifying and worshiping God and by loving each other.
  4. What happens to a human being when I die? We have a choice between Heaven and Hell. The Bible tells us the story of our redemption. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve refused to trust God. They ate the forbidden fruit. They sinned, and they separated themselves from God. Jesus offers us redemption. On the cross He atoned for our sins. Now we have the choice of repenting of our sins and accepting the gift of salvation.

Sounds simple? We just repent and accept a gift? Who doesn’t like free? Don’t we each want to be important to someone else? Don’t we want to love, and don’t we want to be loved? Who would refuse God’s love?

Strangely, because we are proud, we find it difficult to admit we need God. Yet because God’s love is conditional, we must. If we don’t accept and return God’s love, He is not going to force us to love Him.

Consider the story of The Prodigal Son. We are amazed that even after the younger son, the prodigal in the story, has behaved with great irresponsibility the Father accepts him back into His household. All the prodigal had to do is repent and return to the Father? We, like the elder son, tend to think that outrageous. No matter what he did, the Father would forgive the younger son?

The elder son missed something important. Until he had repented and returned to the Father, the prodigal exiled himself from the father’s love. Until the prodigal humbled himself, admitted his guilt, his need for the Father’s love and loved the Father in return, he suffered because he had exiled himself. Therefore, the younger son had already quite effectively punished himself.

Because he was too proud, the prodigal refused to obey the Father. Because he lacked of humility and refused to be obedient to the Father, he chose to exile himself. The elder son was similarly arrogant. He still thought he had earned the Father’s love and favor. The younger son, because he had learned from his suffering, had finally realized his Father love was a gift, one he would never be worthy of receiving. Meanwhile, instead of having the peace of being secure in his Father’s love, the elder son was foolishly and anxiously trying to earn something he already had as a gift.

What does it mean to love God? If we love God, we must obey Him, and we must accept His discipline. God disciplines us (Hebrews 12:3-11), and Bible does not sugarcoat this fact. Discipline involves suffering, and God’s discipline can seem utterly brutal, but the alternative is Hell.

Why does God discipline us? We demonstrate our love for God by accepting His wisdom and obeying Him.

1 John 5:1-4 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the [a]Christ is [b]born of God, and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child [d]born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and [e]observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is [f]born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Because it requires faith — trust in the One in whom we have faith — discipline is required to love. We do not willingly practice the wisdom of and obey the commandments of someone we do not trust. Yet we can only gain faith through practice and experience, that is, discipline.

Discipline is also required to be worthy of love. If we want someone to love us and put their trust in us, we have to learn and practice the virtues that make us worthy of another’s love. Is anyone born honest, diligent, temperate, patient, joyful, peaceful, kind, faithful, gentle, and capable of self-control? No. Of course not. That is why we must discipline our own children.

So, what does God’s discipline look like? Here we must contemplate Romans 8:28 and consider that verse in context (Romans 8:26-39). We must also observe that the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) — that all the apostles — suffered physically far more AFTER they accepted Jesus than before. God’s discipline often looks like the life Job lived (see Job 1). Even when we don’t know what God is doing, we still must trust Him.

When we become a Christian — when we repent and accept the gift of salvation — does our suffering end? No. That is why Jesus said to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

When we become Christians, our suffering continues and may even seem worst. The difference is that we begin to see a purpose in our suffering. We are learning how to love and be loved. Those who would be made perfect in love cannot compromise; God will not allow it. There are no halfway, almost Christians.

 

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