The God Who Loved The World

"Why'd it take so long for people to figure out God loved the world?"

PAUL, A PHARISEE TRAINED IN THE LAW, stood amongst Jews, in a Jewish culture, and told them a man crucified as a criminal had set them free from observance of the Law. Oh, yeah, that man, Jesus, who you hung on a cross, appeared to me in a vision while I was headed to Damascus, and He said that what I was doing was wrong, that actually, I should go tell the Gentiles about Him. Blank stare. Kinda like telling the English there is no more Windsor Castle.

Instead of following rules set down for generations, like thousands of years, that went back to Moses, the equivalent of an American’s George Washington (well, sort of), they should trust the story of Jesus, say a simple prayer, and walk in the Holy Spirit. You are now the temple! (Did I say that perky enough?)

Side note, the Holy Spirit is grieved when we misstep, but He does not retreat to His Holy Spirit cave and roll a stone over the door, and now we must use the secret I’m-sorry knock to get Him to come out. Knock. Knock. Knock. (Distant rumble.) Holy Spirit? I’m …I’m sorry? Footsteps or maybe it’s just a thick wind. Whoosh. And the stone cracks slightly. Can we talk? He gives you the eye. Not how it works.

Anyhow, back to Paul. Or we could throw in Peter. Peter ate too much (insert Jewish food) and goes to bed and has this strange dream. He wakes up, “Great Scott!” Kinda Marty McFly. And He rushes downstairs, babbling. Mrs. Peter raises a brow, fingers curled around her morning tea. He ignores the warning. “I had a dream!” he exclaims. Her lips pressed into a line, she gives him “the look.” It always comes back to that with women. Anyhow, “Mmhmm.” That’s all she says. Being a man, he ignores it and surges on. “I saw this sheet coming down from heaven and it had all these animals on it. EVEN PIGS. We can eat anything we like!” I wonder how long it took him to convince her he wasn’t nuts. Then he goes out and tells it to others. There he is, a Jew, telling Jewish people to eat non-Jewish food. Although, the point was to save the Roman’s family, which is a beautiful thing, it had to have come out wrong.

Why’d it take so long for people to figure out God loved the world? Why’d it take them so long to realize they were in themselves nothing like Him? There was no love for others in them, just a lot of anger and judgment and condemnation. Leviticus sets out the sacrifices of the Law, what animal for what sacrifice, and the manner of them. Leviticus 1:7-8 makes a powerful statement.

“And THE SONS OF AARON THE PRIEST shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And THE PRIESTS, AARON'S SONS, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:” (Leviticus 1:7-8)

The one who would sacrifice the animal, who would place it on the altar and set it aflame, would be Aaron’s sons. They would sprinkle the blood. The fire they lit would be the Holy Spirit’s but the instigation of it would be theirs. They would crucify Him. And we fast-forward to Peter in Acts.

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, YE HAVE TAKEN, AND BY WICKED HANDS HAVE CRUCIFIED AND SLAIN: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:22-24)

You crucified Him.

What were their words in that moment? Surrendered to their murderous hate, they shouted. “His blood be on us, and on our children.” And it is. But not like they thought. Not in revenge, not some huge godly comeback. Take that! No, the God who so loved the world took that blood and removed their sins with it. He fulfilled the Law code they followed with it. He poured out His mercy and grace and opened wide His arms to the people He’d separated them from. He gave them freedom.

He asked of them UNITY. Cleanliness, godliness, was never about the rules of the Law. That was for a time, so that they could look forward toward the Messiah. But over time, they stopped seeing Christ in it, if they ever had. He asked them to walk upright until He redeemed mankind, and then all the wonderful things about people would UNITE in one kingdom, under one flag, with one Counselor, Helper, and Guide, with one Savior, and one Father. They had to set themselves apart in order to bring the world together.

But culture preached division. We don’t want to be like them, so we’ll cluster like us. And neither side spoke to the other side until a handful of Jews from Galilee and a Pharisee who’d tried to kill them, anointed by the Spirit of God Himself, pushed a new gospel that no man could stop. We preach this same gospel. Instead of bidding people be like us, we say to be like Him. Instead of “come ye” and cluster with us, we “go ye” and take Jesus’ death and Resurrection into the world around us. That was His instructions. Our heart should never be to build a larger sanctuary or to wear nicer clothing. God can do both. God can and will give a minister an airplane if he needs it, and that minister will then give that airplane away to save people in a Muslim country. But the heart behind any of our actions is Jesus’.

And grace that comes right to where you are. Whatever you’re wearing. Whoever you are. Despite the downs of your life and your bad decisions. Or your good ones. Jesus came to us. So we open the gospel for Him to those He died to save. Not to assimilate. Not to be like us. But to liberate. To be like Jesus.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)

“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:6)

“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:18)

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Suzanne D. Williams, Author