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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Acting upon the preliminary reports...

I work in a world where we rely upon preliminary reports all the time.  We don't always have time to wait for the final test results, which can take days, to make decisions about how to begin treatment of a patient.  If we did, we might place the individual in greater danger than if we begin treatment.  The final report may not reveal the same conclusions, but we have a pretty good "impression" of the reality of what it is we are treating based on several things - presenting symptoms, the patient's history, and what we can ascertain in our assessment of the patient (touch, smell, etc.).  Based on these things, we draw certain conclusions - then we act upon those conclusions.  This is the way most of us work in this life - even scientists who seem to deal (at least on the surface) with facts and only facts.  If you get down to the nitty-gritty of it, a scientist is acting upon faith until he or she can confirm their suspicions as fact!  In terms of our walk with Jesus, we often take steps of faith, based upon what we see presented and then we come into a place of fuller and more complete faith as we act upon the things we can wrap our hands around right now (the preliminary reports, so to speak).

The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets on God’s Son. His descent from David roots him in history; his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master. Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah. (Romans 1:2-7 MSG)

Old Testament scripture may not be the easiest to study, nor the place we'd want to open up and just jump right into as a baby Christian, but it is important for us to understand the purpose of the Old Testament writings. If they were to have "gone away" when Christ came to this earth, no longer to be read or appreciated for their value, then he would have told us to no longer regard them as important.  Instead, he constantly reminded us of how he fulfilled each of the writings of the prophets by the evidence of his birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection.  They were the "preliminary reports" pointing us toward him - without these, all "evidence" we might consider in coming to the conclusions he was the Messiah would be kind of skewed.  We need these "old" writings to point us toward him.

Jesus did not stop at confirming prophecy, though.  His every action on behalf of his kids has and continues to reveal the truth of his identity - the Son of God, come to earth as the Son of Man, and resurrected to glory as Messiah and Savior.  As such, he gave this world the ultimate gift which could not be found by any other source - restored life with God the Father - communion, freedom, and peace.  Now, we are commissioned to pass on what it is we have received - not just in writings, but in lived lives.  The dynamic testimony of a redeemed life "lived out" for the world to see, come the conclusion they can "trust" the "preliminary reports" and act upon them, as well.  Our lives become extensions of the "preliminary reports" of Old Testament scripture - as evidence that the New Testament scripture also bears witness to the validity of the actions of Christ on our behalf.

Most of the time, when we receive a gift, we don't usually think about passing it on.  In fact, it was given to "US", so we hold onto it because it is "OURS". In terms of the gift of restoration (salvation) we have received, we might just want to handle this gift a little differently.  In "passing it on", we are actually realizing an "increase" in the gift we received!  As we see other lives reconciled to right standing with God, we share in the glory of those transformed lives.  In turn, the "gift" grows!  It is multiplied and enjoyed even more than it would be if we held it all to ourselves.  We "share" in the gift another receives when we pass on the gift we have received.  It is like knowledge I might possess.  It is simply my knowledge until I pass it on.  If I can help you understand some of the short-cuts and skills I have learned in using an Excel spreadsheet, then my knowledge is multiplied in you.  I have seen what I possessed become something which others can also "enter into" with a little practice and put to good use in their jobs.  Passing it on ensures it doesn't "die with me", so to speak.

We are who we are because of the gift of Jesus Christ.  Apart from his coming to this earth and fulfilling all the "preliminary reports" of his coming, living, dying, and resurrecting / ruling, we would live eternity apart from God.  This is indeed a gift to celebrate.  It is too good to keep to ourselves.  Indeed, when we take this step of believing the "preliminary reports" and acting upon them, we enter into a life beyond our imagining.  We begin to see the "health" restored to our lives unlike anything we could possibly have done apart from Christ's intervention.  I am incapable of truthfully forgiving another apart from the actions of grace in my life - for in understanding how grace has been extended to me, I am better able to extend grace to another - even when they may not have asked for it in the first place!  Forgiveness was only "part way" before I entered into this "restored life" with Christ - it becomes "all the way" when I embrace grace and allow grace to be "lived out" in my life.  The same is true for you - there are numerous examples of how our "health" is restored "in Christ" - and you "pass them on" as you "live them out" each and every day of your life.

We serve a truly generous God.  We "live out" a truthfully generous life, as a result.  Others may not understand the desire in us to share what we have received, but it doesn't mean we don't share it!  It doesn't take a dramatic sharing of the gospel message to spark a little faith in the heart of a searching soul.  In fact, it takes the reality of a "life lived out" (acting upon what we know to be true) to touch a hurting world.  It isn't the "street corner" witnessing which saves the hurting soul, but the one "living life out" in the cubicle next to you!  Just sayin!