Attempting to reveal God’s love to this broken and busy world has never been easy. I have two pastor friends, Greg and Alex, who created a fun and crafty way of illustrating the history of God’s relationship with people.
The smiley face with the halo represents God. Our story originates with God because He encompasses what life is all about. The mind-boggling thing is that God is all about you. God loves us, and God is for us. That’s why the smiley face is all smiles.
At the same time, God is holy. That’s what the halo represents. God’s holiness is difficult for us to comprehend because we are sinful. Our sin separates us from God and prevents us experiencing his love for us.
Is God Too Far Away?
To move closer to us, and to draw us closer to him, we see God reveal himself to people throughout the Old Testament. The “with” picture in the diagram represents His presence with us. God shows up to communicate with people and encourage them to experience his presence.
His efforts were helpful, but people still believed God was unable to relate to us because he was too far away. The contrast between God’s holiness and our sinful nature created a barrier that prevented us from having a relationship with him. This disconnect is the reason why the smiley face wearing the ball cap looks unhappy.
God didn’t give up on us and, in fact, came to earth and became one of us. In Jesus, God was still holy (notice the halo remains), but was now one of us (hence the ball cap he is wearing). As one of us, Jesus chose to die so that he could eliminate the sins of anyone who would put their faith in him.
As a result, this allowed God to move much closer to us. He was able to go from being WITH us to being WITHIN us. Through the Holy Spirit, God’s presence was able to exist within our hearts and make us holy (hence the halo over the person).
Do We Reveal God’s Love?
God’s journey in pursuit of humans allowed us to experience his love and empowered with his spirit. It’s our turn to pursue others who lack a relationship with him. As Jesus said, “… As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
The progression represented by the picture must go from something God did for us to something we do for others. Just as God is for us, we must advocate for other people.
God loves us so, in turn, we need to love people. Especially “sinners.” The truth is we’re all sinners. But there are some who remain distant from God because their sin has resulted in more shame and scorn. Those are the kinds of people Jesus befriended and sought to spend time. And so should we.
As God is, we are for people. We also must be with people. A lot of Christians like to huddle up with their Christian friends, spending a lot of time in their church buildings. That is not the way of Jesus. It’s not the way He wants us to live our lives. We’re to be with people who aren’t with Jesus, people who might feel far from God. We need to look for opportunities to serve and bless them.
Who Are “Those People”?
For a lot of Christians, it’s like there’s “us” and there’s “them.” That’s not the way Jesus lived or wants us to live. It’s not them and us. They are not “those people.” Rather, together we need to become “us.” “They” need to view “us” as part of “them.”
We hope that they would see God in us and that it would lead them to say yes to a relationship with Jesus. We’re so grateful we’ve gotten to encounter God’s love, that it’s changed our lives. We want everyone to have the opportunity to experience God’s presence.
So our prayer is that our journey of being for people, with people, and one of – will lead them to encounter God’s love and experience his presence in their lives.
How Can We Move Closer?
When I moved to Las Vegas, I was for the people that lived there. I moved to Las Vegas to pursue them because I wanted to do something for them. But being for them wasn’t enough.
I thought, “What can I do to be closer to the people?” I wanted to spend time with them. I wanted them to know that I was an advocate for them because I believed in them.
So I had an idea. I started going to open mic comedy nights and doing stand-up with the other amateur comedians. I began to get to know people. I was with them. But it still wasn’t enough.
Eventually, I received an invitation to try out for a comedy show. If chosen, I would become an actual paid stand-up comedian. So, I tried out. Why? Was it because I dreamed of becoming a paid comedian? No, I desired to start a church in Las Vegas.
Should We Meet People Where They Are?
I tried out for the comedy show because part of following Jesus means becoming “one of”. Jesus was God, but He put on flesh and became a human so He could be one of us. I was a Christian but wanted to “put on” the “flesh” of a comedian. If we want to reveal God’s love, we must meet people where they are.
My audition was successful, and I got hired. I was one of them and my goal was to help bring God closer to other comedians.
I had a friend named Tommy who moved to Vegas with me to help start the church. Tommy rode a Harley and was excited when he found out that there was a club for guys who also ride Harley’s. Tommy started hanging out with them and finally joined the Harley club. He became one of them.
Like Jesus, he loved and served them, and even hurt with them when they were hurting. Pretty soon people from the Harley club started showing up at our church. After several of them discovered God’s love, they said yes to his invitation. They accepted what Jesus did for them on the cross, and felt God’s presence through his spirit.
What Does This Mean Moving Forward?
See how it works? My journey being for people ended up placing me with them and resulted in being one of them. God is for us, so he came near us with the hopes of being in us. Now he’s sending us on that same journey.
God sent Jesus in pursuit of you. Who is God sending you to pursue? Is there a group or a team that you could join? What hobby could you start? Whose world could you intentionally enter, so that other people would have an opportunity to encounter God’s love?
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