Last time on Flashback Fridays, I delved into what I reckon is one of today’s most thought about ‘questions’ (it may not even be a question if it is something we’re all not voicing aloud!) of- am I loved, and am I accepted despite everything I have and haven’t done. Linking that back to the unconditional love that Jesus has for us, as evidenced by everything Jesus has done for us, heard in many songs in Diamonds from Hawk Nelson; I reckon that it’s time that this week I expand upon what I believe to be one topic that still needs to be explored more and more.
And that topic, still on the theme of unconditional love (don’t worry, next week or the week after, I’ll go more in depth on other ‘heavy questions’- like I said I would in Flashback Fridays a few weeks ago!), and on the theme of acceptance and knowing that no matter what we have done, are doing, are yet to do, or haven’t even done but were supposed to, that we are still loved despite our shortcomings and failures; what I will touch on here is the follow up part. Once we know that our Father in heaven adores us, and loved each one of us so much that He died for us, took up all of our sin, endured hell for us, and rose again three days later to show us that He has overcome, that He has won the victory; don’t you think we need to do something in response? No, let’s scratch that point. We don’t need to do anything. We can just say ‘cool, Jesus loves us, yeah that’s fine’ and then carry on our merry way. We could have addictions, things in our life that may destroy us in the end, yet we could still say ‘cool, God, thanks for dying for me and rising from the dead, thanks’ and then keep going at life by ourselves (it’s not advisable, but some people do try to do life by themselves!). However I reckon the greatest response that we should and can offer to Jesus because of everything He has done, is doing, and has yet to do for us; is this. We ought to give Him all the glory, and surrender our very lives, as a display of our appreciation and gratitude for our very lives.
So, we know about God’s love, we know He died for us on the cross, and that He rose again. We know that it means something. But what exactly does it mean? Well let me just say that it now means that we are a new creation, that the old has passed away, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17), and that since Jesus died on the cross, we can say that we have been crucified with Him. We can say that now we no longer live, but Jesus Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20) and we are now dead to sin, that everything we have done before from our earthly desires, should and will be curbed more and more once we become fully immersed in the person of Jesus Christ. Once we believe in Jesus, and believe His death and resurrection is sufficient and enough for us to be in relationship with Him, we can live in the freedom that we are alive, that everything that was holding us back, cannot have any hold of us anymore.
While we still may struggle with sin, knowing that Jesus has paid the price, and is with us all the time, should give us all comfort that now the God of creation and the God of the whole world is holding and guiding our steps. Knowing all of this, what other response can we give except to worship? One such album that provides us with unbridled worship and with inspiring melodies about Jesus and to Jesus, is Phil Wickham’s Response. Songs like “Heaven Fall Down”, “At Your Name”, “This Love Will Last Forever”, “All I Am” and “Sun And Moon”, among others, provide us with an honest, emotional and inspiring journey, highlighting to us plenty of God-moments to praise our Creator. This album is one of my favourites in terms of worship music over the past decade (yep, it’s that good in my opinion!), and I reckon any of you can and maybe will be changed by this album regardless if you believe in God or not. But herein I reckon is where the catch lies.
Even though I think that worship may be and most likely is the only response, the best response to our Creator once we fully grasp the enormity of God’s immense love for each of us, and the length He went on the cross to bring us back to Himself; I really don’t think that we can worship God to the fullest extent. That is unless we know and fully get God’s grace, and unless we 100% understand His love. And unless we believe in the cross and the resurrection. Sure we as Christians can say that we believe, but sometimes we as Christians can still think we’re not good enough for God, and we still need to do ‘x, y, z’ for Him to accept and love us. We say we believe, but then we are still caught up in our own imperfections, and worrying about God’s approval. When maybe what actually may be required for us is a paradigm shift. So…let me tell you right away that that is not the case, of God needing us to clean up our act first before He loves us. It’s far from it. We’re in fact loved and accepted already, and all we need to do is believe. But what does that look like, you ask?
What does actually believing in Jesus look like? Like saying a ‘sinner’s prayer’ and then spending 6 out of 7 days a week (the day we’re not at church) like how we were before? No it doesn’t. That’s just lip service. Being born again is genuine, and comes out of knowing the price that had to be paid. Hypothetically, if we know that a bill has been paid for us, maybe some thanks to the mysterious person is required. But what if it wasn’t for one bill, nor two bills? But what if one person whom we never personally known, but knew of, paid every single bill we ever incurred, plus the bills we currently owe, and the future bills we will surely rack up in the future (so basically millions or billions of dollars!) with no catch, just the fact that said person pays it all, and pays it all for every person alive on the planet, plus all persons past and in the future; then our response to him will be different by a long shot. We’d believe his intentions of simply just paying cause he wants to, and we’d be grateful, right? How much more would we be grateful when we realise that Jesus did exactly the same thing?
He died on the cross and rose again for you. And for me. And for Adolf Hitler, for Donald Trump, for Kanye West, for Stephen Hawking, for Ricky Gervais, for Denzel Washington, for Tori Kelly, for Lecrae, for Russell Brand, for Katy Perry, for Michael W. Smith, for Amy Grant, for TobyMac, for John Legend, for Mozart, for John the Baptist, for Judas Iscariot, for every person on the planet, living and dead; past, present and future. Think about it.Knowing Jesus fully, knowing the price He paid, may take time, even when the answer is staring at us in the face. And that’s ok. Everyone has their own journey. Some of us may get there tomorrow. Some of us may never understand God’s love. But for the Christian, let us pray for those who do not yet believe in God. For only God knows the timing on when our non-Christian brothers and sisters choose to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
What Jesus told Nicodemus in plain English (in which the most commonly known verse of the Bible is featured here!) is that all we need to do is to believe wholeheartedly in Jesus and the power of His death and resurrection; and then we will be saved. Then our past transgressions won’t matter, our sin won’t matter, our former selves won’t matter, because Jesus has given us a new name, and we are now one in Him and He in us. While it may sound confusing and out there on the surface for those who do not yet believe in Jesus (and I guess for more clarification, you can read next week’s Flashback Fridays post, continuing in our topic of unconditional love/being born again, and what it fully means as we live life to the fullest), I reckon what we all need to do, is to listen to yet another favourite album of mine, that shows us a band that is on fire for Jesus, that at the time of them releasing the album Born Again in 2010, was literally born again. Newsboys’ 2010 album was released as the first album with Michael Tait as lead singer. Everyone thought that band was done, and now here they are 8 years later, and still not slowing down. A band that has had multiples leases on life, we are reminded in this album – in particular the title track – that new life is possible, we just need to open our eyes to the truth and accept the gift of new life.
So while you guys are wrapping your head around what may be one of the most relevant posts I’ve ever written, but maybe one of the most complicated in the sense that it’s so simple yet so many people still don’t seem to get the notion of Jesus loving us completely and dying for our sins; let us listen to these two albums by Phil Wickham (Response) and Newsboys (Born Again), as we remember that it is only when we are born again in Jesus when we can truly respond in worship to Jesus Christ and His promises. And also, you can let us know what God is speaking to you about through these heartfelt and poignant melodies, in the comments. And be on the lookout for the next instalment of Flashback Fridays next week, as we delve into the topic of the choices we make having massive ramifications for each of our lives, yet those choices not defining us at all. So basically it’s time to explore The Light Meets The Dark by Tenth Avenue North!