God’s Love Is Perfect :: By Nathele Graham

God’s love is perfect. Our human understanding of love is limited, but the standard of perfection is set by God.

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” (Luke 6:27-29)

Though Jesus said to love our enemies, too often we seek revenge on someone who offends us and we have a hard time forgiving others. Jesus didn’t ask us to do anything He didn’t do Himself. His love is perfect and His forgiveness is available to everyone who asks.

Sin is a problem for all humanity. Everyone sins. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,”  (Romans 3:23)

This verse can be discouraging but God is always willing to forgive us. Nobody can possibly measure up to God’s expectations, but even though we fail He still loves us. The problem of sin began in the Garden of Eden when Satan lied to Eve and Adam followed her in eating the forbidden fruit. This rebellion continues to this day. It’s in our human nature to fight against  God, and that rebellion is a death sentence.

‘For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a)

Sin pays deadly wages but God takes no pleasure in people facing eternal death.

Pride was what caused Satan to defy God and that was his downfall.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Satan exemplifies this verse and he still thinks he can win against God. There is a battle raging between Satan and God and the prize is human souls. Satan has wrapped sin in a package with pretty paper and ribbons to tempt us, but that only disguises just how ugly sin is. God knew before He created the world that sin would have a strong hold upon us, but because His love is perfect He gives us a choice. He could have programmed us to love and serve Him, but that wouldn’t be real love. Unless there’s a choice it’s just control.

God doesn’t keep secrets. He has given us the Holy Scriptures to guide us away from sin. That means we’re without excuse when we rebel against God and commit sin. Keeping God’s Law is impossible, although some people claim to be able to not sin. That in itself is the sin of pride. Our idea of sin and God’s idea are different. God alone sets the standards, not humans. Sin involves more than just actions, but we tend to think that if we don’t act on an ungodly thought we’re okay. The Ten Commandments is a very short list summarizing the Law. It’s impossible to even keep ten sins out of our life let alone the entire Law.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

“Other gods” might include money, television, cars, sports, and anything else that you put ahead of God Almighty. No matter how hard we try not to, we all have something we put ahead of God. Remember, it’s God’s standards we need to live up to, not human standards. It’s easy to point fingers, but the truth is that most of us have many things in our life that we put ahead of God. That’s sin.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about man’s standards as opposed to God’s. He talked about the Ten Commandments.

“Thou shalt not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)

In pride we justify our own perfection by saying that the Hebrew word translated “kill” means murder and most of us have never set out to murder another person. That seems simple enough, but Jesus said that even calling someone a fool is worthy of hell.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22)

What names do you call someone who cuts you off in traffic? Do you call them a fool, or worse? It’s easy to see that nobody lives up to God’s standards of perfection. Can He love us anyway? Yes, His love is perfect.

Shall we talk about adultery? “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)

That’s right to the point and usually we think of this as a man lusting after another man’s wife.

[Jesus said,] “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)

Do you have a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue? Oh right, you just read the articles. Television promotes lust and so do movies. In fact, much of the “entertainment” we partake of promotes sin. This verse doesn’t only apply to married men lusting after married women, but also applies to those who aren’t married and also to women. The apostle Paul said to take control over thoughts.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

If your relationship with another person isn’t biblically based, you need to take your thoughts before the Lord. He knows them anyway and loves you in spite of it. His love is perfect, but you need to seek His forgiveness.

It could be easy to get discouraged when we look at our life and compare our thoughts and actions to God’s standards. God created us and Satan corrupts us. Is there any way to live up to God’s ideals? No, not by our own efforts. We can try, but even the kindest person falls far short of God’s standards. In order to restore the fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God prior to the Fall, God sent his Son to be the atonement for our sin.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Most of us have heard this verse quoted many times. There’s no love greater or more perfect than God’s love for you. He knows you sin, but His love is far greater than the sins in your life. He doesn’t look for ways to condemn you, but He offers salvation.

‘For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through                  him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)

Love is a choice and God chooses to love you. It’s time for you to choose to love Him. If you don’t, then you have condemned yourself to eternal death. You can’t blame God for a choice you have made.

Don’t wait until you’ve become “good enough” to ask God to come into your life. If you’re waiting for your own perfection it will never come. God’s love is perfect and is offered to everyone right now while we are still lost sinners.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Jesus loves us and it’s only His righteousness that allows us to come before the most Holy God. You will never be good enough to stand before the throne of God by any effort of your own. Jesus chose to enter His creation to bring salvation to everyone who asks. When Christ died on the cross, you weren’t yet born. Every sin you commit was in the future when He went to the cross, but He died for you anyway. Now, you need to accept the forgiveness He offers.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:13-14)

Jesus did lay down His life for you. Accept His love and follow His commands. There is great peace in living your life for God. His perfect love far outshines the filthy lusts of this world.

There is no pleasure in sin. You might think you’re having a wonderful time sowing your wild oats, but hangovers aren’t fun. That’s just one of the problems of sin. What about the risk of sexually transmitted diseases? When you choose to live opposed to God you choose to be diseased. Alcoholism leads to liver problems, smoking leads to lung disease, drugs open doors for demons to enter. Still, God has perfect love for you and is willing to forgive every sin.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

You have to ask Him for His forgiveness. Then allow Him to change you. He will help you to overcome alcoholism, drug addiction, and every sin that has taken hold of your life. You may have to live your life dealing with the results of your sin, such as AIDS, but God’s perfect love will see you through.

Prior to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the Law required animal blood sacrifices to cover sin. There was no permanent solution so those sacrifices had to be made continually. After Christ’s sacrifice on the cross there is a permanent solution. Jesus didn’t abolish the Law, but through Him we are made perfect.

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

By His perfect love He took our sin and nailed it to His cross. He did this willingly and He won’t force this gift of salvation upon you. Accept it and apply it to your life. There is no other way to obtain eternal life than through faith in Christ’s sacrifice.

“Much more then, being now justified by his blood we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:9-10)

Only faith in His death, burial, and resurrection brings eternal life.

“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:11)

Turn to Him today and receive the forgiveness for sin that He offers. God’s love is perfect.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

Do You Know Who Jesus Is? :: By Nathele Graham

When Jesus began His ministry He called a group of men to follow Him closely and learn His ways. These twelve disciples were faithful followers and it would be their calling to spread the gospel after Jesus was crucified. Well, all except one who never was truly one of them. They all heard Jesus teach and saw many miracles that must have astonished them. Then there came a time when Jesus wanted to be sure that His disciples knew exactly who He was.

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” (Matthew 16:13)

Good question. Jesus knew the answer, but it was important that His followers were aware of how the world viewed Him. The disciples followed Jesus and saw with their own eyes that He healed lepers and cast out demons, but they also heard the gossip and accusations that were bantered around by people who were confused and by the Pharisees who should have known better. Too often people will listen to lies instead of God’s truth. This brings about doubts and can lead to rejection of Christ.

The question Jesus asked was a general one about what the world thought. Everyone had an opinion and the disciples needed to be sure of their beliefs in order to stand firm in their faith. Things haven’t changed much. Today there are many opinions about Jesus, but they aren’t all correct.

“And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:14)

In those days many people were looking for the Messiah to come, but they weren’t looking for the right Messiah. We should have learned by now who Jesus is, but there is still much confusion. Some people believe that all roads lead to Heaven so it doesn’t matter what you believe about Jesus, while others think they can be “good enough” to go to heaven.

It’s easy to be deceived if you don’t study God’s truth. We are very blessed today to have God’s Word to teach us. If you leave your Bible on the shelf to gather dust you run the risk of being deceived. After He asked the general question about who people thought He was, Jesus made it personal.

“He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

That is the most important question each of us needs to answer. Your eternal home depends upon the answer. Do you listen to people who say that Jesus and Satan are brothers? That’s not biblical.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3)

Christ is the Creator, not the created. Many people say He was a good teacher who is on a par with other good teachers. That’s not biblical.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

Don’t be duped by lies. He is God and eternal life only comes through faith in Him.

Peter was one of the twelve and he was never shy about speaking his mind. He made mistakes as he followed Jesus, but when Jesus asked who they said He was, Peter had a shining moment. He got it right.

“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Good for Peter! No matter what others said, Peter proclaimed the truth. No matter what the world might say, that’s the only correct answer.

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:-17-19)

Peter hadn’t heard this from a person on the street or from a Pharisee, but Jesus said it was a revealed to him by God the Father. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is the Rock on which our faith rests.

The fact that Jesus is the Christ is important to understand. If Jesus hadn’t been God in the flesh His death on the cross would have meant nothing. He would have been just another man dying. Jesus Christ is God. He had a mortal human mother, but it was the Holy Spirit who came upon Mary and impregnated her.

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born  of thee shall be called the Son of God.” ( Luke 1:35)

Mary must have been a very special woman, but she was just a woman. Because she was human, Jesus qualified as our kinsman because He was fully human. Because He was also fully God            His blood was untainted by sin. Only His pure blood can take sin away. He is our Kinsman Redeemer and salvation is only through His blood sacrifice on the cross. Peter’s words are important, but words aren’t enough to bring salvation. We have to believe the words.

 

It wasn’t long before Peter stumbled. The time was right for Jesus to head to Jerusalem where He would be crucified and He began making this known to the disciples. But Peter tried to stop Him.

“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” (Matthew 16:22)

That’s the way it is when our words are hollow. We proclaim Him as Lord one minute, then try to tell Him what to do the next. Peter’s intentions were that no harm would come to Jesus, but he just didn’t understand that the reason Jesus entered His creation was to become the final sacrificial Lamb to atone for our sins. Peter had proclaimed “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” but he had no full understanding of what that meant. Jesus rebuked him.

“But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Those words must have stung Peter. He though he was doing right to convince Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem, but that wasn’t God’s plan. Too often we try to help God but we fail to see the greater plan. Peter tried to correct God using human understanding instead of trusting Him to know best.

Eventually Jesus led His followers to Jerusalem. The time had come for Him to lay down His life for our salvation. When Jesus was arrested and sentenced to be crucified, the disciples were also  in danger. They could have easily been arrested and sentenced to death too. Peter, who had declared:

“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God ” while surrounded by friends, denied Christ  three times that night. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75)

We’re a lot like Peter. In the heat of the moment we respond to an altar call or even sit in a pew every Sunday morning. We’re among friends and we sing praises to the Lord. Then Monday morning comes and we’re back in the world. Co-workers get on our nerves or friends invite us out to a bar where the drinks flow like water.

When we behave like worldly people our actions deny Christ. Instead of living for the One who brings salvation, we join in the sin of the world. Were the words you said at the altar hollow with no belief? Peter’s story ‘end in failure. Neither should ours.

Peter had many tests of his faith, but his life shows that he was a changed man. When he truly believed that Jesus was the Christ he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He became a leader among the Apostles and boldly spoke of the power of Jesus Christ. One day when Peter and John had healed a man in Jesus’ name and boldly taught about Jesus Pharisees were upset. They were always upset over anything to do with Jesus. These were the same Pharisees from whom Peter had hidden in fear when they illegally put Christ on trial and condemned Him to death.

Now we see that Peter was a changed man and was no longer just mouthing words about Jesus. The conviction of his faith was firmly planted in his heart. His actions showed the change and he spoke boldly “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole…

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10, 12).

Remember that. Salvation is only through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The example of Peter is one to follow, but there was another man who had walked with Jesus. Judas had heard Christ’s words and witnessed the miracles just as Peter had but he never truly had faith. Judas followed Jesus, but wanted things done his way. Peter had tried to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem because he didn’t want Him to be arrested and crucified.

On the other hand,  Judas betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees which led to the crucifixion. Jesus knew this would happen. Judas was given the same opportunity as the others to place his faith in Jesus but he chose to betray our Lord. Judas regretted his actions, but chose suicide instead of repentance.

“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5)

Judas never did truly know who Jesus is.

Who do you say Jesus is? Have you, like Peter, spoken the words “…Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), but then turned around and denied Him? If you don’t truly believe those words, then you follow along the path of Judas. It might look as if you follow  Jesus and you might deceive yourself as well as others, but your actions deny Him. You have to believe.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Who do you say Jesus is? Don’t just mouth hollow words. Proclaim that He is the Christ and believe it.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham