Princeton, New Jersey
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1. Have you ever been struck by the beauty, design, even love that exists in the creation? I know there is ugliness out there as well, death and disease - cruelty, but as C.S.Lewis said in his book "Miracles", it's like something perfectly magnificent gone wrong. There are qualities in the creation that speak of a personal Creator. This realization is in such stark contrast to the teaching that everything in life is the result of impersonal forces and that we ourselves are the result of nothing more than a competitive desire to survive although as we are taught this, it seems more and more people are trying to put something like that into practice. Yes, "natural selection" and competition are involved in change but life is so much more than that. Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what was made."
2. We are created for meaningful relationship with both God, the creator of the universes and each other as well as a healthy, protective relationship with the planet. And yet we find ourselves separated from these relationships by our sin.
3. Sin is transgressing God's law or failing to do what we ought to do. It is our determination to do things our own way. (Romans 3:10) We all do the things that we ought not do and we fail to do the things we ought to do. We are deeply corrupted by our willfulness and selfishness and our sin has separated us from God and each other and is leading to the ruination of our earth. (Isaiah 59:2)God's law is meant to be good for us, to set healthy limits on us but because of our rebellious nature, instead it simply shows us how rebellious we are. How can a sinful man be made right with a holy God? We need forgiveness and His power to work change in us: We need restored fellowship with God and others. In His love and mercy, He offers it to us through the death and resurrection of his Son in our place for our sin. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Incredible that God could love us so. God has shown himself to be there in the creation and he has provided a way back to himself by taking our sin and giving us his righteousness as a free gift! An exchange takes place in which his righteousness is credited to us by faith. (John 3:16 above on the lighthouse)
4. Jesus gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. (John 14:25-26) "I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me though he die, yet shall he live. Do you believe this?" .
What is eternal life? In one sense it is what the name suggests-life that lasts forever and cannot be lost. In another sense it is the eternal living saving life of God within you which can restore the "image of God" in your life and with your cooperation, operate through your life. The book of John says Jesus is "the life".
5. What about continued fellowship with God when we sin again and in some ways and at some times we will. Does our sinfulness bring an end to our eternal life with God? No, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" Rom. 8:39 (1st John 1:7-9) "If we live in the light since God is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ (His death as our sin substitute) cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin we lie and are not telling the truth. If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.") (We are not perfect but we are walking honestly trusting the gospel we are confessing our sins to God and we are in process and being cleansed and changed usually little by little. )
6. Spiritual life takes time to grow. From start to finish the Christian life is a life of faith. Faith is substantial. "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) The Bible, God's word, is the book we need most and God's Holy Spirit helps us understand it. Jesus said "Sanctify them by the truth;your Word is truth" (John 17:17)
The book of Mark is the shortest of the gospels and the earliest. The book of John is a also a good place to begin to study as it was written that we might have eternal life by believing in Jesus. The letters of Paul are excellent for growth and doctrine. Ephes. 2:10 says "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has already planned for us to do " So obviously good works are part of what God plans to do in our lives. Our works reflect our gifting. The word tranlated "workmanship" is very like the word "poetry" in the Greek. We are God's poetry, very personal.
Love is another part and sharing the "good news". Good works and love go together. Love for God because he first loved us and for fellow Christians, love for neighbor. and even for our enemies.
Dr. Martin Luther King said "Darkness cannot cast out darkness. Only light can do that. And hate cannot cast out hate. Only Love can overcome hate."