Do you believe that? Do you believe that it means that God love you, individually, enough to sacrifice His Son for you?
To be honest, I still struggle with this. I believe it, but I cannot understand it. Like David, I ask "Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them?"
Do you believe that God looks at you, that He looks into the very depth of you, that He sees you for exactly who you are and loves you enough to give His Son for you?
We are told that Jesus did not need anyone to tell him anything about men because He saw into the hearts of men. I think it is safe to say that the way that Jesus ministered to people was show them what He saw, the person within. He showed them the person they forgot they were, the person He created them to be.
I am grateful for all God has done to help me see who He made me to be. I'm glad He sees past all my shortcomings and all the labels other put on me.
When Jesus looks out at people, He doesn't see what the world sees. They call us junkies, bums, drunks, fools, thugs, tramps, screw-ups, dope-heads, losers, hypocrites, heathens, trash, liars, cheats, criminals... like Everlast's song "What It's Like" says, "they call her a killer, they call her a sinner, they call her a whore." But that's not what Jesus sees. Looks with compassion on us shepherdless sheep and sees Children of God who have lost sight of who they really are.
When Jesus had a woman dragged before Him and was asked if she should be executed, He didn't see an adulteress, He saw a woman caught in adultery. He saw past the label, past the sin, to the women that the sin was hurting. By saving her from her would-be-killers, he showed her she was more than a sinner, she was capable of getting up, leaving her past behind and "sinning no more."
But Jesus was not always gentle when He showed people how to discover who they were. Consider the people who came and said they wanted to follow Him.
One was an eager young man. He was a good kid; he loved God and believed Jesus. He was not only a good man, he was wealthy. In the eyes of the disciples, this was the type of follower any Rabbi would be blessed to have; he was young, rich, powerful, he knew all about God, and had a desire to follow. In their eyes, if anyone was going to make it, it was this guy. The world saw a man who was all he should be, but Jesus saw another man who was trapped and needed to be set free.
The young man ran up eagerly and asked what he needed to do to have the eternal life Jesus talked about. When Jesus said that he should know what to do if he read the commandments, the boy was proud to say that he had always followed them. But then Jesus hit at the heart of it all. He hit at what was keeping this young man from being who God always knew he could to be. He saw a man who was owned by his possessions and gave him the words to set him free. "You just lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasures in Heaven. Then come and follow me."
Jesus didn't beat around the bush, he didn't give the guy slow steps to become less attached to his stuff; no, Jesus said get rid of it. Anything that would keep this young man from serving God with all his heart was a poison to him that had to go.
This was too much for the young man, he could not let go. He had no words to express his sorrow, he just turned and left. Following Christ had too high a cost.
Like the rich young ruler, most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor changes in our lives but Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down. What Jesus wants is a complete renovation not little touch-up, an overhaul not a tune up, a makeover, not a little make up. Jesus wants to remodel, not redecorate, a commitment, not a decision. Jesus wants to be your life, not just a part of it. Jesus is not interested in a casual relationship, He wants the real thing.
Jesus wanted to peel back all the layers that stood between this man and the image of God. Jesus sees it in us all, and He asks us to get rid of everything in the way. But, the rich young ruler held on to who he had become and missed out on who God always knew He could be. He didn't really know himself, and though he knew all about him, he didn't really know his God.I have been there. When I was in preaching school, I memorized over 100 verses in my first quarter. By the end, I had memorized the book of James, half of I Corinthians and hundreds of other passages. But I couldn't really tell you what it meant. Sure I could tell you what my teachers told me, I could parrot it back, but I knew nothing from sitting with God and His word and getting to know Him. I knew all about God, but I didn't know Him, and my relationship with Him was very shallow.
One day, while memorizing a passage I planned to speak on, I realized that I knew very little about what it actually said. I saw preachers who memorized large portions of the Bible preach shallow sermons that really told me nothing about God or my walk with Him. Then it hit me, I was looking at a mirror of myself. I saw the effect that this had on the way I lived. Though I did not recognize it at the time, I was beginning to see that I was not who God always intended me to be. I needed to get to know my God and get to know the real me.
The failure of the rich young ruler was a shock to the disciples. All they saw was what the man had; they had no clue who he was. Jesus was not surprised, but he was saddened. He said it is easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.
The disciples were devastated by this, they asked "Then who can be saved?!" And Jesus reminded them that what is impossible for men is possible with God.
When another wealthy man heard that Jesus was passing through his town, he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, he called him down and told him that he was coming over for dinner. He was overjoyed to have Jesus come and eat with him in his own house.
The people of the town had a different attitude. They were insulted! How could Jesus go into the house of a tax collector and eat with such a sinner. Once again, they were looking at the outward man. All they saw was a man who worked in a profession they hated and considered a betrayal of all they stood for. Zacchaeus was used to be rejected by everyone around him. He was used to being hated, after all, who likes the tax man. He was used to being judged and wearing the labels everyone put on him. But Jesus saw a man whose heart was given to God. He saw a giving, loving, and faithful man.
After this one encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus gave half of all he had to the poor and swore if he cheated anyone that he would repay them four times the amount.
Jesus did not ask Zacchaeus to do this. This was just what Zacchaeus felt God wanted of him. This was just the kind of man Zacchaeus was. This was the kind of man God always knew Zacchaeus could be. "This day salvation has come to this house," Jesus said. That day a camel did fit through the eye of a needle, because a rich man entered God's Kingdom.
Zacchaeus was not a collection of labels people put on him; tax collector, sinner, cheat, etc., he was not the mistakes he made; his identity was not in what he owned. No, he was a child of God on his way home.
His journey into the depths of himself began with his encounter with Jesus. My journey began in the same way. I asked God for about a year to help me see His will and to open up His word and show me what He wanted me to see. He showed me who He is and who He knew I could be. He made me fall in love with His Son and made me take a good hard look at the mission He gave Him. I had always been concerned with what God wanted me to DO, but He really wanted to show me who I was made to BE. He showed me that underneath it all I had a heart like His. And you know what? You do too.
Seeing who God is, and understanding that all His children have the same heart and goal, helped me to see my part in His plan. I looked for some huge epiphany, and maybe that is what the rich young ruler expected, but it was no striking revelation, it was a simple truth I overlooked. I saw the heart of Christ displayed in action, the gospel summed up in four words: Go, Give, Love, Serve. Four things that God knows are key to use becoming who He intends for us to be.
Go where God calls you. Christ left the glory of Heaven and came to this world because it was God's will. Having a heart like Jesus means when I pray for God to guide me, I'm not afraid of the doors He opens, I have the courage to step through them. I worship with a man, a good friend, who left his home and all he had to live in the woods because God called him to leave it all, be still, and come to know Him. That is courage, that is faith, that is what the heart of Jesus looks like, and that is the man that God always knew this man could be. It may sound crazy to you, but isn't that what Jesus said about those who are born of the Spirit? Like the wind, no one understands where they come from or where they are going.
Give what you have. Jesus gave up heaven to give us access to it, He gave up life to give us life eternal, He gave up glory to sit us with him in heavenly realms, whatever He had, He gave. Having a heart like Jesus mean I stop focusing on all the things I don’t have to give and I give what I do have. My friend John never had wealth; he actually had very little materially. But John gave his time every day to come to River City Ministry and serve our poor and homeless friends. It did not matter how long a shift he just finished or how little sleep he had, time and love was what he had and that is what he gave to others for the glory of His God. God knew this was who John was, even when no one around him, not even John himself, could see it. When John came to know His God, he discovered the man he was meant to be, and that is the man he became.
Love actively. "Jesus loved his own who were in the world, and he loved them to the end," and that end was the cross. Having a heart like Jesus means love without limits. When I learn to live by His love it will change my life. Love your brothers and sisters, love your neighbor, love your fellow man, and love your enemy, for this is how you love God. How do I love? By serving.Serve like the Savior. Jesus did not come to be served to be a servant to all and give His life as a ransom for many. Having a heart like Jesus means letting go of my pride. If I keep thinking “let someone else do that,” or I think anything that another person needs is below mine, I will never be a servant. If we wait to find someone we think deserves serving, we will miss those who need it. Or have we forgotten, Jesus washed everyone’s feet, not Just John’s, the only one who showed up at the foot of the cross.
I never knew I had it in me to be the kind of man who lived this way, but God did. Do you have the courage to stare into the depths of yourself and find the person God always knew you to be? Do you have the courage and dedication to remove anything that stands in the way of you becoming all you can be? Will you let Him recreate you in His image? Are you ready for a new life in Him? Which story will be yours? Will you sadly accept who the world says you are, turn from the master, and walk away? Or will you see what God sees in you, follow him and live a changed life? Only you can write the ending to your story. What will your story say you chose when you encountered the real Jesus?