Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What Remains After You Have Lost Everything?

There are some lessons we learn that just won't leave us alone as it tries its best to go as deep as we will allow it to go. I preached one of those lessons on Sunday and it refuses to let go of me. It is one of those lessons that pushes all the clutter aside and demands our full attention, grabbing the spotlight from everything else. It strips away a lot of the silliness that we attach to our beliefs and centers us back on Jesus. The lesson is this: after everything else is torn away from us we are always left with three things - faith, hope and love.

It may seem pretty basic to you because it is. The love of Jesus Christ must be the motivator in everything we do. As Paul stated, it must compel us:

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

I am already straying from what is on my heart this morning. The focus is the fundamental role of faith, hope and love in our living out our lives in this place. Paul explained that these three things would remain after everything else has past away:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

Paul states for us in simple language what is most important above everything else:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

If you have these three then you have everything. It is like building a house. If you do not have a solid foundation then you will not have a house for long. That house rises up from its foundation, sold, straight, strong. The foundation in our lives is the love of Jesus Christ. If we try to build a house on anything but that love it will not last, falling down in the first storm that comes along. Understand the house is not built on our love but on the assurance of God's unfailing love. There is nothing in all of creation that can beat it as the most solid foundation to have. You must be absolutely convinced that Jesus loves you, died for you, has forgiven you and is preparing a place for you.

With that foundation in place it is possible to see a solid house built. That house is faith. Faith can only be built on the foundation of love. Faith based on the love of Jesus becomes our home, our shelter, our fortress. It will protect us in all the storms that come against us. Because we are convinced that Jesus loves us we have faith in his promises even in the worse days of our life. We are then able to stand strong, never doubting, never failing. It is a strong house, a sure house, a mighty house.

So if faith is the house, hope must be the life that exists within it. Hope is what allows the joy of the Lord to be our strength. Hope brings that joy to us, it is what fills our house of faith with songs and laughter, it is what fills that house with life in abundance. Hope is what fills our hearts with songs of praise as the storm roars around our house of faith. But that hope can only exist within the house of faith which is set upon the foundation of Jesus' love. Any other hope is a false hope which will fail us in the smallest storms of our life. Hope keeps fear, worry and anxiety far from our hearts as we bask in the glory and assurance of Jesus' promises.

If you do not like the image of the house then see it as a tree. Jesus' love is the stream that feeds the roots of the tree of faith. Without the stream the roots would whither and the tree would dry up and die. But when the roots are firmly established deep in the love of Jesus that tree of faith will produce the fruit of hope which sustains us and gives us strength. The storms may come but the tree will hold because the roots go deep.

However you want to consider it, the foundation of our life must remain the love of Jesus, faith must be the structure and hope the abundant life within that structure. And the greatest of these three is being absolutely convinced that Jesus Christ loves you. If there is any weakness in this foundation, any cracks, any doubt about the solidness of this fact, then your foundation will not hold up the house in the storms that will buffet it. You may doubt a lot of other things but you cannot afford to doubt God's love. This love has nothing to do with whether you deserve it because you can't earn it. Either you accept it as a free gift or you can't have it. That love goes beyond cleansing you, it re-creates you. If you accepted Jesus Christ and stayed as you were before, you have not experienced the life changing love of Jesus. His love changes everything.

So many Christians live like the walking dead, with no real life in them at all. They exist but they do not live because they have no hope. They have no hope because they have built a house of cards and have called it faith. I don't know what their foundation is but it is not the love of Jesus. They are not sure that God loves them or anyone else for that matter. You can tell by the way they treat other people, the way they judge, and by their blood-lust for justice when they are offended. This is not a Christian. This is someone who has attempted to conform to the Church's standards. Don't be like them.

My friends be thankful that our Father loves us enough to test us so that we can see whether our faith is genuine. If you find that you fail this test be glad you have failed here where you can seek help. Check your foundation. It has nothing to do with the length of your prayers, or how often you go to church during the week. It has nothing to do with what you do and everything to do with how much you believe that you are loved. Everything else, including your actions, spring out of this love. Everything we do we do because we are compelled by this love. It requires our complete trust and abandonment to the truth that Jesus loves us, died for us and is preparing a place for us. He loves us so much that he sent the Spirit so we would not be abandoned, alone or forgotten. He is always with us and he requires us to allow faith and hope to spring up from his foundation of love. It's simple and true.

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