Legacy of Light

Many years ago, I sat on the end of my bed with my mom asking her questions about what I had been hearing at church. She opened a Bible and patiently answered my questions by pointing me to the words of truth found in its pages. That night I asked Jesus to be my Savior. I still remember the feeling. It really wasn’t like any other moment in my life – a mixture of joy, peace, and an unforgettable sense of awe and gratitude flooded over me as I went to bed that night. I am forever grateful to my mom for her patience and love and faithfulness in that moment and as she has continued to teach me how to walk in faith ever since.

Another day years later, I sat looking at my grandpa’s Bible with its well-worn pages and protruding sticky tabs. It was opened to what I’m sure was one of its most often read books, Romans. Its translucent pages were peppered with careful underlines marking key verses. My grandpa was a humble servant of Christ who spent his life pointing others to Jesus. My dad fondly recalls growing up watching his father mentor and disciple young people, using that same Bible to lead soul after soul through verses outlining their need for a Savior and the one and only path to salvation. Grandpa carried that Bible with him and was always prepared to share his faith. 

Upon my grandpa’s death, many people shared with our family their personal testimonies of how Grandpa’s ministry, love, and friendship helped grow their faith and shape their lives. He was no famous evangelist. He just loved Jesus and loved others. With the power of God alive in him and an unassuming gentleness and kindness that put everyone at ease, he forever changed the world through his faithful words and actions. 

My grandpa is certainly not the only ardent believer in my family tree. I am blessed to be surrounded by a legacy of faith. As an adult, I have come to realize what an exceptional thing that is. When I was young, I took for granted the faith of my family, the abundance of Bibles and Christian literature at my disposal, and the constant hum of song and prayer that became the soundtrack for much of my childhood. I thought it was the norm, not the exception. I realize more and more just how exceptional it was. 

Today my desire is to help others experience what I did growing up. Perhaps you are reading this today and haven’t ever held an heirloom family Bible. Maybe your family tree isn’t filled with pastors and preachers. You might have no idea what it means to find forgiveness and joy in Jesus. If that’s you, I’d like to share with you the same four verses that Grandpa would share with you if he were here.  

1. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 (NASB)

Grandpa would start with the bad news first: none of us are good enough to live up to God’s standards of holiness. Bad as this may be, it is crucial to understanding the Good News of Jesus. Unless we realize our sin and how entirely we are divided from God because of it, we can’t fully accept our need of a Savior. To grasp the vastness of the divide between us and God, we have to start by recognizing who God is. 

Read John’s description of God and its implication: “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1:5-6 NASB). God is Light. He is holy and blameless and unconditionally just. Sin is darkness. It cannot endure the Light, and Light will always cast out the darkness.

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

The second verse my grandpa would turn to underscores the calamity we find ourselves in apart from God. It makes little difference to know that we’re sinful if we don’t also realize the result of our sin. Sin = death. It’s that simple. We all sin, therefore we all will die. It’s not how God intended life for His creation, but it’s the inevitable result of our selfishness and pride. It is inevitable, that is, without God. In His infinite mercy, God has provided us a path to salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This salvation grants us access to an abundant, hope-filled life and an everlasting spiritual union with God. 

When we accept God’s gift, physical death is no longer seen as the end but as the beginning. The darkness of this world – the fear, the pain, the tragedy, and chaos – are all overwhelmed and overtaken by the Light of Christ. See again what John has to say: “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7 NASB). The radiant light of God’s holiness eradicates the darkness. Light will always cast out dark.

3. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12 (NASB)

Here I think Grandpa would point out two important things. First, all are welcome – “As many as received Him!” Secondly, salvation requires belief. This is spelled out a little further in Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (NASB). To confess Jesus as Lord and believe in His name is to acknowledge our own sinfulness, Jesus’ deity, and the perfect goodness and sacrificial love of God born out in His plan of salvation. 

Jesus states plainly in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (NIV). A few chapters later in John 12:46, Jesus repeats his claim: “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (NIV). As children of God, our darkness has forever been replaced by His Light.  

4. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him. Revelation 3:20a (NASB)

The final verse my Grandpa would open to is this personal invitation. Jesus is calling you. He’s knocking for you. He wants a relationship with you. Will you answer His call and accept His free gift? Here’s His promise to you today: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 ESV). 

I don’t know where you’ve come from in this world or how you’ve happened to arrive at this blog today. But I know it was by divine appointment. Hear His voice speaking in the words of these verses. The Bible says Jesus is the Living Word of God. These verses may have been written a couple thousand years ago, but there is nothing ancient about their words. They are the words of Jesus spoken to your heart today. 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (NASB)

If you would like to accept Christ’s free gift of salvation today but aren’t sure how, all it takes is a simple prayer from a repentant heart. There are no special words you must use. The state of your heart matters much more than the articulation of your words. 

Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I confess this to You now. I know because of my sin I am separated from You. I believe Your words, that You are the only way to salvation and everlasting life. I ask You, Lord, to forgive me of my sins and be my Savior. I submit my life to Your authority. You are the truth, and I rejoice in the new life You have given me. Thank you, Jesus! Amen.

Get Up

Last week brought one of those surprises you hope you never get. My stomach had been upset off and on for a while, but I had assumed it was related to diet, maybe a developing food intolerance. The pain had come and gone and hadn’t disrupted life badly enough for me to talk to any doctor about it yet. Then last week happened. Starting Wednesday afternoon, the pain steadily increased. Seeing me doubled over in tears on the floor Thursday night convinced my husband he needed to get me to the ER pronto. A few tests later, the culprit was exposed: a badly inflamed, stone-filled gallbladder. Fast-forward three days through an unexpectedly complicated surgery and subsequent procedure, I finally made it home from the hospital. Thankfully I’ve been recovering well ever since, looking forward to getting life back to normal.

As I have focused on resting and healing my physical body this week, I couldn’t help but pause when I opened my Bible the other day and happened to see the story “The Healing at the Pool” in John chapter 5. I have read this compassionate story of healing so many times; it’s one of my favorites. It still surprises me how the Holy Spirit can teach me something new and striking from such familiar verses. And how He brings my attention to them at just the right time.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

John 5: 2-9 (NIV)

The lesson He had for me today was in the unexpectedness of this unsought healing. Christ walked this earth for 33 short years. I don’t believe a single thing he did was by accident. Every moment was preordained. Every word and action held significance and illuminated truth for us. He didn’t accidentally stumble across the pool called Bethesda. He didn’t pick an invalid at random. He had a plan and a purpose. He knew this forgotten, hopeless man was there desperately longing for healing, and He went to him specifically. 

But while Christ foreknew of this predestined meeting, the crippled man did not. He was lost in his miserable despair. He was not seeking out Christ. In fact, what little hope he may have held on to was misplaced. He thought the pool could heal him. He desperately wanted to be healed. But he couldn’t do what was necessary on his own to acquire the healing. 

Then Christ appeared. Given the man’s response to Jesus, he apparently did not know with whom he spoke. He never asked Jesus to help him. Think about that for a moment. Christ showed up in this man’s life uninvited. Offered healing unrequested. Granted forgiveness in whole. He didn’t sit off to the side and wait for the man to approach or call out to Him. He didn’t send his disciples to fetch him. Jesus Himself went. He sought out this man specifically. He initiated the entire encounter.

What part did the man play in this story? He did all he had to do: he followed the directions Jesus gave him: “Get up!” It was that simple. The man stood up, picked up his mat, and walked! How great is the love of Jesus that He meets us where we are when we don’t even know we need Him, shows us the way to spiritual healing, and offers us an absolute reconciliation with God. All we have to do is follow another famous directive found in Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me.” 

There are so many intrinsic truths nestled in the full story of this man’s healing. Through the supernatural greatness of this act of healing and the timing of the event, Christ once again attested to His divinity. In verse 21, we learn that life itself comes from Christ. We see that Jesus has been granted the “authority to judge” (verse 27). But the truth I needed to be reminded of this week is revealed in the unexpected, unsolicited, unconditional love and compassion the man found in Christ. 

Physical healing is nice. Spiritual healing is vital. As I continue to rest my body and pray for physical healing, I renew my thanksgiving to the Savior who revealed Himself to me, pursued me, offered me His love, granted me His pardon, and atoned me with His blood. He has already made me whole and granted me perfect healing. Regardless of my physical state, I am made new in Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

If you are reading this blog, Jesus has already initiated His encounter with you. Maybe you have followed His command and received His healing. Or maybe you’re still considering your response. Will you come to Him and accept His healing? He’s already done all the work. He sought you out and found you. He paid the price for your healing. All you have to do is accept it. It’s time to get up and live.

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.

John 3:16 (NIV)

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