As you read this devotional, I hope to be in Ethiopia. I will be one of four preachers/missionaries going to train pastors and share the Gospel of Christ. Our team is part of a much larger medical and dental team going in to minister to the needs of the people. Please pray for me, the teams, the Ethiopian pastors and masses of people that we will be ministering to.
In Ethiopia, I will be focusing my teaching time on the themes of "Unity" and "Lordship" with John 17 as my focal passage. In this, the last recorded prayer of Jesus before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to be arrested and later crucified, Jesus knew that if the world was ever going to know what He was about to do on their behalf, His people would have to work together to make Him known. So, with a heavy heart, Jesus prayed repeatedly to the Father that all Christians would work together to make His love known around the world: a love so true and so pure that He would give His life as a sacrifice for all mankind. He actually would give His life for the sins of the world. His shed blood paid the price for our sin and purchased eternal life for all who will call on Him in faith. His blood reconciled us to the Father and mended the broken relationship between sinful man and a holy God.
The individual sin issue was not all that needed to be dealt with in our lives—Jesus, on the cross and in the resurrection, also dealt with the consequences of a fallen people, of a fallen world. Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus did more than just take upon Himself our sin, He also took upon Himself our sickness, our sorrow and our pain. "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows... But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by his wounds we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Is. 53:4,5-6). Through the suffering and death of Jesus, we are set free from sin and the eternal consequences of that sin. We can live and enjoy a victorious life on this earth despite the troubles, sicknesses, and sorrows that we experience as a part of life. The difference is, in Jesus we now have a very present and an eternal HOPE of God's presence and provision—both now and for all eternity. Because He took our sin, bore our sickness, took our sorrow, and defeated death on a lonely cross, we are free to live a victorious life now and for all eternity. Our relationship with the sweet, compassionate, loving and holy God is restored by the blood and the resurrection of Jesus.
This is the Gospel or the Good News that Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would work together to make known around the world. This is the Gospel that the world is so hungry for and so desperately needs to know and experience, because all people are sinners and in need of God's forgiveness. This is the Gospel that changes individual lives and entire cultures. This is the Gospel that drives the ministry of Cattle for Christ International and sets the course for my life, and I hope the course of yours.
As you and I accept by faith God's forgiveness as provided by the blood of Jesus who died in our place for our sin, our response should be to love and serve Him in return. We initially love Him because of what He has done and is doing for us. As we spend time with Him and study His Word, we learn to love Him because of Who He is!
On the other hand, He loves us not because of what we did or can do for Him, but because He is Love. He saw our need and He loved us! He loves you! He loves the people of Ethiopia! He loves the whole world so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die in our place. What greater love is there than this?
Scripture tells us that when we accept Christ as our personal savior and Lord of our lives, that His Holy Spirit comes to live in us to comfort, guide and empower us. Jesus is God with us--the Holy Spirit is God in us. As we yield to the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit and as we study and obey the written Word of God in the Bible, we allow Jesus to be the Lord of our life. If we do not, then He is not!
If Jesus is our Lord, He will live His life and accomplish His will in and through us. If He is our Lord, we will want to know and to do His will—we will want to live our lives to honor and serve Him. We will make it our mission to share the Gospel message with them so that they too can know His love, His forgiveness, His hope, and the eternal life He purchased for them. We will love them for His sake! We will love them because we love Him! We will love them because He loves them and because He wants to live out that love through us!
Will you allow Jesus to be your Lord? Will you unite with us to make His love known to the nations? I know it sounds paradoxical, but you will never experience true freedom and abundant life until you allow Him to be your Lord and your Master! Because He is a loving and a holy God, there is no safer or more satisfying place for us to be than in His hands, in His care, and in the center of His will.
Until next time, may the Lord bless you and keep you.