The Greatest Download in the History of the World

In the age of mobile devices, downloads have become part of our everyday lives.  I download television shows to my iPad before a trip out of town.  I download music to my phone that I enjoy hearing over and over.  I download family photos from our son-in-law photographer.  I download articles about quantum physics for later reading.

But here is a “download” that you may not have thought about.  It is the greatest download in the history of the world.

When you believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ … whoosh … the greatest download possible landed directly in your inbox.  The life of Jesus Christ, complete with the character of Christ and the love of Christ, was deposited right inside you.  Jesus promised it and God did it, just as He promised.  Christ came to live in you by His Spirit.

We have developed so many techniques to address sin in our lives through various disciplines and accountability groups and so on.  And these can be helpful.  But the power to continue in righteous living will never come from self-discipline and will power.  It will never come from trying to set up controls, either internal or external.  The power will only come through a supernatural infusion of the life of Christ in us.

The download of the life of Christ in you is the lasting power to live the Christian life with victory and peace.  Victory because grace gives us power over sin (Romans 6:14), teaching us to turn away from sin (Titus 2:11-12).  And peace because your striving to manage your sin is over.  We have peace because Christ removed the guilt, shame, and condemnation of our sin.  We are free to walk in the new self, created in righteousness (Ephesians 4:24).

Does that mean we never sin?  No, not at all.  And I have written many times about our growing up in Christ and how we learn to walk according to our new identity.  But that topic is for other posts.

For today, just ask yourself what this would look like in your present situation.  “What if the download of the life of Christ in you is the only reason you behave?”

Closing Thoughts on the Words of Jesus

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 43

Today, we wrap up our series on understanding the red letters of Jesus.  There is much more that could be said about the words of Jesus, but I hope you have gotten a taste of the beauty of Jesus’ words in the gospels.  The first four books of the New Testament describe a transition from the age of the old covenant to the coming of the new covenant.  And it can lead to confusion about which of Jesus’s words we should take to heart and which we should leave behind in the world of the old covenant.

I have tried to show in this series that not all of Jesus’ words were meant for us, new covenant believers.  Jesus was sometimes speaking old covenant to His Jewish audience.  Remember how many times Jesus used the phrase, “The Law and the Prophets”, to refer to the old covenant time or message (Luke 16:16 and elsewhere)?  But there is a bounty of new covenant in Jesus’ teaching as well and we will miss it if we just lump everything Jesus said into old covenant because it was said before the cross.

Jesus’ promise of life; new life, forgiven life, resurrection life, abundant life, eternal life, are all new covenant promises.  Jesus’ pronouncement that His kingdom has arrived introduces us to the coming of the new covenant.  Jesus’ parables often describe what life will be like in His new covenant kingdom.  And His sermon in the upper room expanded on all kinds of new topics about our new covenant experience.

One of the best ways to interpret Jesus’ words in light of the new covenant is to read them through the lens of His kingdom message; its arrival and what life in His kingdom will look like.  The kingdom in us that He brought to us is all part of the promise of the new covenant.

Another helpful way to read Jesus’ words is through the lens of all the new covenant explanation given to us by the apostles in their letters.  Jesus promised them that the Holy Spirit would bring His words to their minds as needed.  We believe that their writings are a direct result of this leading of the Spirit.

Finally, read Jesus’ words through the lens of rest and connection.  If you believe that your relationship with the Father is one of separation, felt as a fragile and shaky connection, then you will interpret Jesus’ words as a confusing mix of complicated commands.  And you will be weighed down by guilt, shame, and condemnation; looking for some price that still needs to be paid for your sin.  Jesus paid the price in full, once and forever.  Your connection to Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit is unbreakable, unshakable, rock solid, and never-ending.

And that forever forgiven and connected to the Father starts and never ends the minute you believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  Understanding the time and place and meaning and point of Jesus’ words in the gospels sets us free from guilt and shame.  And it points us to rest, peace, comfort, and joy.  The words of Jesus that apply to you as a new covenant believer are not in the gospels to raise your stress or angst or worry level.  They bring you rest in His finished work on your behalf.  Enter His rest, my friend, and find rest for your soul.

Awash in the Love of God

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 42

For the past several days, we have been sharing thoughts from the Sermon in the Upper Room.  Jesus’ last message to His disciples before His death lays the foundation for what life under the new covenant will look like.  And unlike the Sermon on the Mount, this message is pure new covenant.

One of the interesting things I find in Jesus’ upper room discourse is the lack of commandments.  This is one of the most significant differences between the two covenants, the old and the new.  The old covenant, the Law, was ALL about keeping the commandments.  The new covenant, on the other hand, is about who you are; a new creation, a child of God with an unbreakable connection to your heavenly Father.

A covenant is a promise.  And one of the promises of the new covenant is that you are a totally forgiven, fully accepted, and deeply loved child of God.

You see, when you know who you are as a reborn child of God, you know what to do.  You don’t need a list of commandments because grace is teaching you “to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12).  Your new nature is guiding you.  And your new indwelling of Christ’s Spirit is empowering you.  Can I say it again?  When you know who you are, you know what to do.

Is doing what you know to do automatic?  No, it is a maturing process to live into your new identity; to live according to who you are.  And “Christ in you” is an endless supply of power to grow into who you are.  The key to how the “who you are” translates into the “knowing what to do” is recognizing the reality of Christ living in you; the power source for doing what needs to be done.

Now the Sermon in the Upper Room is not command-free.  It does contain one commandment.  Jesus calls it “a new commandment.”  I call it “a new commandment for a new covenant.”  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

The focus of the Sermon in the Upper Room is two-fold.  First, it is about who you are as a child of God.  You are “vine and branches” close with the Father.  And second, how we live.  We are to love one another.  And the sheer beauty of it all is that the who you are – complete with a new heart, new Spirit, new nature, new life, new self, new power, new identity, and new freedom – is the HOW you keep the commandment to love.  You love as God loves because of who you are; filled with the love of God because He lives in you.

Can you tell I love these upper room chapters in John’s gospel?  And I love this new covenant message.  And even from afar, I love you, my friends!

Infused by the Love of God

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 41

O righteous Father, even though the world does not know You, I know You, and these know that You have sent Me.  I have made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:24-26).

“That You have sent Me” (vs 25) is the most common phrase that Jesus uses in the book of John to identify Himself as the Son of God.  Believing that God sent Jesus.  Believing that He came to die in our place.  Believing that He rose again sealing our redemption.  This is how we cross over from death to life.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).  Here in John 17, Jesus acknowledges that His disciples believe.  “They know that You sent Me” (vs 25).  They now belong to Jesus and the Father.

Jesus’ final petition to the Father in this chapter of prayer is centered on the love of God.  This request goes to the very heart of God’s essence.  Love is not one of God’s attributes.  Love is His identity.  The apostle John simply writes it elsewhere as, “God is love” (I John 4:8).

What do we learn about God’s love in this passage?  “That the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (vs 26).  Jesus prays for God’s love to saturate us, to wash over and inside us.  And in this verse, we see the path of how this happens.  “I in them.”  Christ in us is the only way for the love of God to be in us.  We can’t find it on our own.  We can’t manufacture this love by will-power or trying harder.

Because God is love and His Spirit lives in us, it only stands to reason that God’s supernatural love lives in us also.  We are infused with His love.  Our role?  To let it out.  To let it flow.  To send love out into the world.  Then the world will know the loving embrace of the Father.

“I in them” (John 17:26).  Wow, what an ending!  In these last three words of Christ’s message to us in the upper room, we are back to the intimate connection we have with our Savior.  A union built on love; the love of the Father for His children.  We return that love and demonstrate it through our obedience to His commands.  And the beauty of this is that because of His dwelling in us, His commands are not burdensome.  They fit who we now are as children of the King.

The promise of “Christ in us” comes to us the moment we believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  When we believe that Jesus is indeed “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, we begin to capture the fullness of all that Jesus promised in this beautiful message of John’s gospel.

The Peace of Christ

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 40

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace – True peace is found in Jesus.  The words “in Me” send us ahead to Colossians 3:3, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Our life is hidden in Christ, you are complete in Christ, and it is “in Him” that we have true peace.

Tribulation – But the world seeks to shake us from this peace, this rest in Jesus.  Trouble attacks us from all sides in this fallen world.  We learned previously in these verses that the world system hates us.  We have an enemy, the devil, who seeks our destruction.  “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).  And we have an enemy within, our flesh, that tempts us toward the dead-end path of sin.

Courage – In the face of this tribulation … take courage!  Fear not!  Do not be afraid!  Courage is commended to us many many times by Jesus.  A familiar story in Matthew chapter 8 is Jesus and the disciples crossing the sea of Galilee during a furious storm.  Jesus is asleep in the boat as the waves threaten the lives of His followers.  They awaken the Lord with a cry, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  Jesus answered them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:25-26).

True courage is totally powered by faith.  We can be bold.  We can be strong in the face of our enemies and in the face of the world’s tribulation because our faith is squarely upon Christ, our deliverer.

Overcome – The promise from Jesus as this chapter comes to a close is, “I have overcome the world.”  Christ has overcome.  Christ has defeated all of His enemies.  And our faith is our greatest weapon in “overcoming” with Christ.  “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world … For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (I John 4:4, 5:4).  Faith brings the victory.