Matthew 5:9, 48; 6:10
John 3:16; 14:12, 19:28, 30
Our call from the cross is also our heavenly call from God to become His peacemaking children.
How does a Jew come to be born again and still be Jewish?
How does a Jew come to be a Christian and yet remain Jewish?
How does a Jew come to preach and teach the Good News of Jesus Christ, and still be Jewish?
How does a Jewish Methodist pastor of a Baptist church come to preach before a Korean congregation on a Good Friday evening?
All of this happens because of our being obedient to the Lord our God and the unction of the Holy Spirit, who made us one in the Lord.
We are no longer Jews or Greeks or Koreans, we are simply brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In Matthew 5:48 we are told:
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)
John Wesley says that our sanctification is our being perfected in God's love, which I believe is something that we all should be seeking to achieve.
This only happens when we let go of our worldly standards, and self, and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us to overflowing.
I used to be an evolutionist, and while I was in high school and college I even theoretically developed a silicon based life-form, but I could never get all the answers.
No matter how hard I tried to figure everything out, there was always some unanswered question, the biggest of which was, "Where did everything come from?"
Many scientists said everything started from chance or from a big bang, but they could never explain where that matter came from.
I heard that this matter always was, and I said to myself that's the same definition used to speak of God's existence.
Both of these definitions required faith, and my scientific spirit and soul was not satisfied.
I had this nagging feeling that there was something beyond me.
So...one day while I was flying our plane, alone, on a drizzly overcast day, I suddenly broke out on top of the clouds and was flooded in sunlight under a clear blue sky with a bed of white fluffy clouds below.
I looked up into the clear blue sky and said, "God, if you're really up there, You have to let me know. I don't have any other answers."
I meant that prayer and God answered it, but the last place a Jew expects to find such spiritual answers is in Jesus Christ, and it was to Him I was led over the next few months.
Then one day as I was in the bathroom, in the tradition of Martin Luther, I contemplated that our brain was the finest computer ever created.
An evolutionist actually used the word created - horror of horrors - but it seemed to be true.
And I thought, if this is true, then God was like a master computer, and the data link between us is the Holy Spirit.
And if this is true, then God could have a Son whom he sent to save us from the corruption of this world.
As I stepped into the shower, I knew it was true. More water was coming out of my eyes than was coming out of the shower head.
I told the Lord I was sorry, and to make me into the person He wanted me to be, and He has been doing that ever since.
I was no longer the same person. I was changed!
The old ways had passed away, or at least most of them, and I knew I was saved.
I was a new person in Jesus Christ, my personal Lord and Savior, and I never felt more Jewish in all my life.
I had found my Messiah, and He had been right in front of me all those prior years.
He died for me that I might live.
That I might do the good works that He had prepared for me to do.
And it is here that each and every one of our lives tie into Jesus' death upon the cross.
My repentance was like nailing myself upon the cross with Jesus, but even more startling was the realization that each and every one of our sins was a hammer blow upon the nails in His hands and feet.
And Jesus lovingly accepted them in hope that one day we would accept what He did for us and come to follow Him in all the ways He taught us, and even beyond, for "greater works shall we do", as we are told in John 14:12.
In John 3:16, we are told:
16 "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. (NIV)
It is here that God gave me one of my greatest revelations.
Unfortunately, most Christians interpret this passage to apply only to us, or to our fellow human beings, but it is much further reaching.
The Greek word used for "world" (cosmos) means the whole of creation which includes all its inhabitants, among whom are we.
Jesus didn't just die to save us; He died to save us that we in turn might save the world.
When we are born again we are freed from the cross, just as was the dying thief along side Jesus.
But unlike him, we are to remain in this world to make it a better place, and for the most part, we have been doing just the opposite.
We need to remember how Jesus taught us to pray - "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).
We are to both pray and work to bring this to pass.
We Christians have far too long accepted the corruption of this earth as being just a part of life.
It's time we begin living as the peacemakers and sons and daughters of God whom Jesus spoke about in Matthew 5:9, that is, if we believe His Sermon on the Mount.
Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:18-25:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth
comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Unfortunately, instead of liberating this world, we have further enslaved it, and along with it ourselves.
There was no death in Eden and there will be no death in heaven, yet we seek death upon this earth.
We abort our unwanted babies or kill them afterwards.
We seek vengeance thorough capital punishment, even though our Lord says that vengeance belongs to Him (Deuteronomy 32:35, Hebrews 10:30).
We go to war because we allow our corrupt and ungodly leaders to lead us into them.
And I believe that Christians are responsible for this, for we have both supported and initiated such ungodly acts.
In our lust for flesh, we enslave and slaughter our fellow creatures whom we were entrusted to protect and care for.
And this lust for flesh has grown so great that we are now bringing many of the prophesied plagues to the earth.
Our factory farms have so polluted our land, streams and rivers that they are no longer usable and along with it we have brought much disease and an ever increasing inability to cure them.
We take pleasure in their death through hunting, fishing, bullfighting, and in boiling a lobster alive.
And, we even beat and torture dogs to death to increase our sexual pleasure.
Jesus Christ did not die that we might continue to do these things.
He died that we would repent of these things and make a positive difference in this world, so that these practices would stop, and that we would establish a real taste of heaven on earth.
In our Hebrew tradition, we are to come to realize that this creation does not belong to us, it belongs to God.
When Jesus said from the cross, "I am thirsty" (John 19-28), He was really thirsting for righteousness, as we are told in Matthew 5:6.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they will be filled.
Jesus wanted us to change our ways, but what have we done? We have soured the wine of the Holy Spirit and offered it back to Him who hung upon the cross for us.
Thus Jesus rightly said, "It is finished" (John 19:30), for He could do no more work upon this earth.
He left us with all that was needed, but we now have to make the choice of whether or not to accept it and pick up our crosses and follow Him...
...repenting of former destructive and ungodly practices, and begin to live in the unconditional love and compassion that God has so graciously given to us, that we might make a positive difference in this world.
This means that we are to help free creation from its present corruption, and end the violence that causes millions of humans and billions of other animals to suffer and die every year.
Let us pray...
(Pastor Frank L. Hoffman with Rev. Tae-Hun Yoon, Pastor of the Long Island Korean United Methodist Church)
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