Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"John Three Sixteen", 11"x 14", colored pencils on slate gray Mi-Teintes paper.

Many of us are often plagued by a sense within us that we can not quite put our finger on. It can cause us stress, confusion, disillusionment with our lives, or a vague uneasiness that something just is not right. This can become quite heavy at times. We see that the modern lifestyle is filled with anxieties of every kind. Some attempt to answer this inner agitation with constant activity, working as much as humanly possible, or drugs, alcohol, and a myriad of other distractions. Some watch TV, sleep too much, or party in order to push it away. Others attempt to fill it with philosophies and gather to themselves every scientific notion that seems to render even considering the weightier things in life as unimportant. Today we fill our lives with so much noise it seems we want to shut off a deep part of ourselves and avoid it completely. We can blame this inner turmoil on external things that can be seen, such as bad marriages, difficult people, or bitterness with those who have hurt or mistreated us.

Have you ever felt a restlessness deep inside, a place that seems unreachable? Augustine of Hippo wrote, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." This emptiness has been likened to a whole in ourselves that only God can fill. A deep, melancholy, unfulfilled, yearning emptiness. Because only God can satisfy this need in us, we are left broken and disillusioned with all the things we seek to fill it with instead. The distractions or promised fulfillment in life we pursue apart from God are described as "vanity of vanities" in Ecclesiastes. If we reflect on this as we look inside ourselves, part of us knows it is all emptiness or sad attempts in the end, no matter how we try to somehow manage. Do we not get so tired of just dealing with life, simply enduring, and that is all?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism states a very important truth. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”. As you read the unfolding redemptive story of Scripture, you see that this is what we were truly created for. Only God can fill this void, in the person of Christ. We can not meet this deepest need ourselves. No activity, thing, or person that we so desperately try to fill it with can meet this longing. Religious notions of ones own opinions or a Christ of vague subjective ideas will also leave us unfulfilled. Every religion of man is an attempt to surmount this problem by our own bootstraps, to define God and some kind of salvation on our own terms. Before a Holy God this simply can not be done, we are fallen in sin, with hands that are empty – what can a man or woman give God? We are left bare and helpless. The only way to truly be free is to come to the living Christ. To accept the free gift of Jesus Himself - God with us, dying for us who are lost, and raised in overcoming power.

It is humbling when we finally see we need Him, that our own way is completely off target and self serving. We blame God for our problems as if we know better than He, or are somehow wiser. We seek every answer, idea, or thing that fancies, except the central truth we try to avoid. Yet, in all this He still loves us with mercy beyond imagination. It is not an abstract love, but a keenly personal one.

We wander, sometimes far indeed, until Redemption is received. How wonderful to have this emptiness filled. The security and completeness of ones self in He who fashioned us. It is a joy beyond anything one could express fully. It is not too good to be true, or a nice story or idea. In this free acceptance of God we rejoice ever more daily in Christ’s unbounded love. It is profound, sublime, beautiful. Praise God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16.

That 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; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 10:9.

This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. 1 John 4:10.

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "John Three Sixteen", 9" x 12", colored pencils.

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