Jesus has done almost everything needed for us to enjoy a relationship with Him forever. We have a critical part to play in receiving and giving Jesus’ love. Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” What does that mean? Repentance means to “turn around and go in the opposite direction.” Jesus’ gift of Eternal Life, and eternity with Him, is completely free. It cost Jesus His life to be able to give it to us, but He gives it to us freely as a gift of love. But what do we need to do, and what does Jesus need us to do, so that He can live His life freely through us? We must be willing to turn from the principle of sin, and from the actions of sins; specifically, we must renounce that which hurts God and other people and ourselves. You may be thinking, “Jim, I’ve tried to change before, I can’t do it!” I can’t either. No one can… not by themselves. The Spirit of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, must remove the sin principle that is in us and give us His power to be “bent toward God” in order for us to leave our sins and truly love God and other people. If we are willing to surrender control of our lives, and obey God, God is more than willing to give us His power to change and to leave evil actions behind and to live for Him.
To me the best salespeople aren’t the ones who try to pressure me into doing what they want me to do. To me the best salespeople are the ones who give me the facts and respect me enough to let me make up my own mind. One of my former pastors, Rev. Dave Terhune, used to say that he’s in sales and God is in management. My pastor presented Jesus, told how much Jesus loved them (by dying in their place, and rising from the dead to give them new life forever), and their response and the consequences of their response (surrender to Jesus and live with Him forever; decide not to surrender, or decide not to decide, and be separated from Jesus forever (Hell)).
Pastor Dave never saved a single soul using this method.
But God saved hundreds of people, using Pastor Dave, using this method. Give people the truth. Give them the options and consequences of those options. And let God do the rest. Because only He can do the rest.
Contrary to what much of what our culture believes, God loves you and everyone else. In eternity past He thought: I want to make a Jim McNaughton. Now God knew before He made me that I would reject Him and need to have my mind taken away from me for ten years before I would be humbled enough to accept Him. He knew that I would hate Him when I was in that pain, for what He had done to me . He loved me enough that he was willing to endure me and my rebellion, until at last I surrendered to Him. Now I realize that all that indescribable pain was worth it. On the other side of ignorance and pain is the realization that God suffered with me and for me and I was never alone. Mental Illness was a gift packaged in pain that changed my attitude from pride to humility. Looking back the pain was infinitely worth it. And I would go through it again if that was the only way to know Christ. But… I definitely would not want to go through it again if I didn’t have to go through it again.
I think it was King David who said, “Strike me, it is a kindness.” And his son King Solomon that said, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted.” Just because I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced didn’t mean that God didn’t exist, that God was powerless to stop the pain, or that God was evil. God exists, He gave me the pain, and He made it work together for my good.
Millions of people suffer infinitely more than I have. I don’t know why God allows so much pain. But, I believe that when someone hurts, He hurts. I watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, a few hours ago and they brought up our Free Will. God chose to give us a choice as to whether we believe, trust and obey Him. Or, whether we do not believe, trust and obey Him. When we believe, trust and obey God we experience peace, joy and love. All that is going on around us may be chaos. But, on the inside, we enjoy God’s presence. When we choose not to believe trust and obey him we experience evil, or the absence of God.
God wants you to choose life, to choose Him because He knows He is the best thing for you. He made you because He wanted to love you and wanted you to experience His joy in receiving and giving love. But He respects you and your right to choose. He will not force Himself on you. When He made you He placed you in times and circumstances that would best influence you to search for Him and find Him and realize that He loves you. But He also allows you to choose to ignore Him, and pretend He does not exist, and die without Him, forever. He is not wrong for allowing this. It is the outflow of having a Free Will. If you say to God, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” (active rejection), or decide not to decide, (passive rejection), He will do what you want. And an eternity without God is Hell.
God is desperately pleading with you to choose Life, to choose Him. But the only guaranteed time you have is today. His arms are stretched out to you, His hands open wide. But it is up to you. Will you return His love?