Hi everyone, it’s Mick here and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. This week’s podcasts are focusing on the ‘Better Life’ that Jesus offers to us. Monday to Wednesday our reflections have been the practical outworking of this Better Life; today, a change of tack as we consider love … the very bedrock of this Better Life.
Two familiar Bible readings today – the first is the call of Jesus to his Better Life; the second how this new life is worked out in our ordinary everyday, busy lives
First, these amazing words of Jesus in John’s gospel:
John 10:10 NIV
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This was the Bible verse that the Lord used to draw me to him many years ago. Our Christian friends took us to their church and I heard the Vicar speak these words in ‘his speech’ – only later did I realise this was called a sermon. That’s what happens when you have no church background! This became such a key scripture for our ongoing ministry – helping people understand that there is a Better Life with Jesus.
Life is tough for many people, including followers of Jesus. We can hear these words but the battles of life make it hard for us sometimes to experience this Better Life. That’s why we need the Bible, worship, prayer and our Christian community to remind us of God’s truth and help us see the blessings through the battles!
I love this version from the Message Bible:
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
Our second Bible reading in this podcast unpacks what is that heart of this Better Life … love. Chapter 13 of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth called its readers to re-examine their lives as individuals and as a church community – to see if love is at the centre of who they are and the power behind all they do.
The description of love in these verses is one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament. Paul places it in the middle of his teaching about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ and describing the importance of these gifts for the church to be healthy. Paul is saying that God’s gifts are so important but love is even more important, in fact in v31 of chapter 12 he calls love ‘the most excellent way’. He says to the people then and to us today that everything we do should be done in love. So what is this ‘love’?
Paul then lists sixteen characteristics of love in verses 4 – 8a; I’m going to read them now from The Message Bible:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. (1 Cor 13:4-8a, MSG)
Every time I read these verses I am challenged – this is love shown in the life of Jesus; this is the life I am called to live, this IS the Better Life! Every day I fall short, but every day, by God’s grace, through his Holy Spirit and with my intent (you need all three!) I grow in his life of love a little more.
Just imagine if these amazing verses were constantly read, learnt and practised in our homes, schools, workplaces … what a different world we would live in!
As I write this podcast at the beginning of this new year, our Westminster politics is still fragile after a fractious 2019 and a weary election; we are experiencing growing conflict again in the Middle East; yet more young people have died on our streets; we still see unprecedented levels of poverty and homelessness in our nation. Church seems to be irrelevant for many, especially young people as it seems to have no answers and continues to decline. But not everywhere … there is good news!
Just a few days ago we celebrated Christmas Day! At STC we saw just under 4,000 attendances over the five week Christmas period. Many people taking up the invitation to come to church and come back to church in this New Year. It’s 2020 and we are now inviting our city to be part of our Parenting course, Marriage course and Alpha courses this year. Why? Because of Christmas Day! We are compelled to invite people to experience this Better Life because of the baby in the manger; Immanuel God with us; Jesus – love come to earth.
Love is permanent – everything else is temporary. The older I get and the longer I have been following Jesus, the more I understand that the greatest thing in the world is love. Sacrificial, you-before-me, how can I help, refreshingly kind, extravagantly generous, love. Paul ends this great chapter with these words in verse 13 ‘Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly – and the best of the three is love.’
Lord, we so need your love in our world today – I need your love in my life today. May your love fill me every day of this New Year and overflow to touch those around me. In 2020, let love be the goal of my life. Amen