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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Loved & Released

Loved and released. That makes me think of the old saying, "If you love something, set it free...." And that fits. In a way.

I have spent a lot of time over the last day pondering Revelation 1:5, particularly the end.

"and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood"

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness. This means that he has first-hand knowledge of what he is saying, and that he knows it with perfect clarity so that he is able to communicate the facts accurately. It is very important that Jesus is not only a witness, but a faithful witness. My father is an excellent attorney, so I grew up hearing about times when dad needed to work with witnesses to prepare them for trial. Why would witnesses need to be prepared? Well, because each of us as humans is weak and easily swayed by what we hear. We can be lead by a skilled questioner to say things that we don't really mean to say. But that isn't an issue with Jesus. He is a "faithful" witness. Every single word out of his mouth is true and can be fully trusted.

Jesus is also the firstborn of the dead. Of course this doesn't mean that he was the first to die. It doesn't even mean that he was the first to rise from the dead. We not only have Elijah and Elisha raising a couple boys from the dead in the Old Testament, but Jesus himself raised Lazarus from the dead. This firstborn refers not to a timeline, but to position. He was the preeminent one who was raised from the dead. Jesus was the one who was exalted and occupied the position of honor and authority.

The final description of Jesus in this verse is that he is the ruler of the kings of the earth. Talk about putting a lot of amazing truth in a very short space! This preeminent one whose every word is true and trustworthy is also in control of every single ruler of every country on earth. There is not a single king or president or prime minister or whatever else a ruler may be called, who is not actually under the ultimate control of Jesus. I tell you, in a world where rulers seem to be leading in ways I don't understand or like, it is an incredible comfort to know that even the foolish and wicked rulers are nothing but pawns in the hand of my almighty savior, and can do nothing but what will bring about the purpose and plan of God.

However there is another side to the statement that he is the ruler of the kings of the earth. If the verse stopped there it would certainly provide great truth about the character of Jesus. It is good to be reminded of just how high and powerful Jesus is. He is God. He is unapproachable. He is so far above any human, including the most powerful rulers on earth. Don't miss that, because it is in light of this huge chasm between the power, truth and preeminence of Jesus and our sinful lowliness that the next statement is so amazing.

This verse declares that Jesus "loves us." What?!!!! Do you understand what that means? The one who rules over the greatest king loves me, and loves you. Loves. And because he is a faithful witness, his love is a love that knows every single truth about me, even the deepest secret sin hidden in the remote corner of my heart and yet chooses to love anyway. This love is so great that it moved Jesus to give up heaven, come to earth to live as a man and die on the cross to pay for my sin (John 3:16). Our verse says that Jesus "released us from our sins by his blood." This is a love that didn't set me free to go out and do my own thing. Rather, this incredible love broke the chains of sin that bound me, and washed me from head to toe so that not one single sin remains on the account books of heaven. This type of love wasn't cheap. It required the very blood of Jesus to accomplish such a deep cleaning.

So what do I do about all of this? Well, first I fall on my knees in wonder and amazement and worship the all-powerful one who would do such a thing for me. Then I love him back -- not because he tells me to, though he does; not because it is expected of me -- but because I can't imagine NOT loving the one who would love me like that. Part of the way that I love him back is that I joyfully obey what he says. You know, when I understand just how much Jesus loves me his yoke truly is easy and his burden light (Matt. 11:30). The other part of the way I love him back is that I enjoy him. I talk to him all throughout the day. I laugh alongside him when something he created is funny. I dance in his presence -- yes, I do dance as I sing and pray to God. The joy welling up inside can't help but overflow in a private expression of delight. Frankly, I'm too much a proud sinner to do that in public though, because I know that the minute I did that my focus would immediately turn on myself and what other people might be thinking of me -- good or bad -- and it would no longer be an expression of love for God, and therefore would be of no use whatsoever. But in private, you bet! I twirl and laugh and cry with sheer ecstasy as I enjoy the presence of God -- this exalted faithful ruler who loves me enough to release me from my sin by his blood.


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