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“The Prodigal Son in Modern Life: The Return” by James Tissot (Photo credit: Art and the Bible)

By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)

The world of theological controversy can be a very draining world. Much of theological discourse simply is not edifying and is simply a combination of name calling, accusations, and talking past each other. As one who clings to orthodoxy, it is also very draining to see more and more people drifting away from orthodox Christian teaching and practice. Traditional Biblical teaching is no longer seen as something to cling to but rather something to progress past. It is easy to get discouraged and wonder if anyone is clinging to truth alongside you.  To this end, I am going to take a break in this post from writing about controversy and rather encourage you with truths from Scripture that hold true and bring us joy no matter the state of the world or church.

Our need for Jesus is an existential need. Yes, we absolutely need Jesus to rescue us from our sins and to forgive us so that we may be reconciled with God. We need His divine rescue so that we may escape the wrath to come. Yet we also need him in a deeply subjective sense. Life is unbearable without a personal and deep relationship with Jesus Christ. If we merely accept the realities of what he has done for us on the Cross but are not relying on Him for our daily needs then something is deeply wrong. If we are not experiencing the joy that comes from knowing Jesus and savoring his beauty then something is missing. He did not save us to merely go on with our lives without Him, but he saved us to live in intimate communion with Him.

Jesus tells us that “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:54-56, ESV). This feeding on Christ, this abiding in him, is not a one-time thing but a continual act of being revived and satisfied on the “bread of life.”

We need to rediscover the viscerally existential grace of God, the grace that is walking with us every step of our journey until we see Christ and become like Him. This is all put into perspective when we remember how Jesus defines eternal life, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is about an intimate love relationship with God.  It is about living life together with Jesus.

We feel the existential grace of God when we recognize that we cannot please Him apart from Him, when we realize that God does not merely want our obedience, but he wants our heart. He wants to comfort us. He wants to empower us. He wants to strengthen us. He wants to correct us when we are wrong. He wants to wipe away our tears when we are grieving. And He not only helps us as a distance third party but as an ever-present participant in our life. We need Jesus desperately, yet it is so easy to live functionally as if He is not here to help us on our journey called life.

Prayer is a very practical way to live out these truths. As we cast our cares on Jesus, ask him for wisdom and strength, and adore him for always being there for us, we take a step towards Jesus and put ourselves in a position to receive his grace. Recently, I have been struck by the truth of Lamentations 3:22,23: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22,23). Jesus gives us the grace we need to face each day. In episode 64 of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper gives advice to unemployed college graduates. In telling college graduates to take it one day at a time and not worry about tomorrow, he gives this insightful commentary on the above verses:  “So each day has trouble of its own, Jesus said. And Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:22, every morning has mercy of its own. And I think Jesus has tailor-made the mercies for the miseries.” We must daily make the decision to receive God’s mercy so that we can flourish each and every day in the midst of adversity.

I hope that you are encouraged by reading this to cling to Jesus amidst the nitty gritty details of everyday life. May you experience the eternal life of Jesus Christ.