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Posted: December 4, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Parson to Person: Christ’s message is love

There is a Christian song the chorus of which goes, "Oh, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all! Just to think that God loves me." I love that song. It carries with it some reminders that we tend to forget.

Many in our world seem to have forgotten that the Christian message is not a message of condemnation but a message of love and forgiveness. The Bible says, "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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son" (John 3:16-18, NIV).

Now immediately those who oppose Christianity will focus on what they consider the negative statement of these verses. They will complain that God has no right to condemn people just because they don’t accept his son. But the wonder here is that God accepts any of us.

I for one cannot get over the wonder of the thought that Jesus loves me — even when I am an unlovable, disobedient and rebellious rascal.

I don’t know about you, but the reality of my failures and weaknesses and, yes, sins, keep me in constant awe of Jesus and the cross. What do I mean by that? Most of us understand the cost of forgiveness and acceptance in light of our pasts, but few of us realize the implication of his love, forgiveness and acceptance in light of our present and future.

Most of us who do know Christ, are grateful for our salvation (again in light of our past records), but few of us take time to consider that God’s acceptance of us comes with his full knowledge of how frail, weak and fickle we both are and will be. Too many believers are struggling with feelings of failure and spiritual defeat thinking that God can never use them again because of some secret (or maybe some not so secret) sin in their lives. Think again. God accepted you into his forever family knowing full well everything there is to know about you, including your (and my) tendency to wander and rebel. He knew what he was getting when he chose to call you his own. And praise God that didn’t and doesn’t change a thing. That alone should cause us to wonder!

Nevertheless, many miss the wonder of this message of love and acceptance and insist that if God were really a God of love he would accept everyone and everything without insisting that it has to be through his son. Instead of standing in wonder of the sacrifice that brings us peace, they stand incredulous that anyone would dare suggest that someone else may be wrong. They forget that truth by definition is exclusive; that is, you can’t have two statements that are obviously contradictory and hold that both are in fact equally true. One will be true and one will not be true. That is the nature of truth.

The wonder of the Gospel message is that "When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn’t expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners" (Romans 5:6-8, The Living Bible).

You have a choice. It is simple. You can accept that wonderful message and receive the gift of life that God offers based on the purchase price of his own son, or you can reject that gift insisting that God accept you on your own terms. In such a case, you will receive the justice you insist upon. For me, I stand in wonder that Jesus would take the justice I deserve upon himself and offer me instead grace and mercy. Oh, the wonder of it all.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.

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