Sunday, February 21, 2010

Secure In Christ

(Hebrews 12:1–2) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Having faith in God - trusting God - seems so simple. But how do I know that I am really safe? What if I let go of God? Or what if I do something that causes God to let go of me?

Some people teach a sort of mechanical security - that if you have prayed the "sinner's prayer" with sincerity you are absolutely secure for eternity - no matter what you do after that. Other people say that is false and teach perpetual insecurity so that people won't think they can sin with impunity.

But what does the Bible say?
(John 10:27–30) My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

In Christ we have ETERNAL life. How can you have eternal life only temporarily? Christ Himself and God the Father are united in guaranteeing our security. How can we improve on that?

But we DO have doubts and fears. No matter what we KNOW - we sometimes FEEL insecure. We know that we are weak. We know that we are undeserving. We see our failures. We see the enemies we face and feel we are at risk. It is hard to rest in Christ. We are tempted to run away. We think security should be like a high wall that would surround us for our protection. Nothing could get in to harm us. We could not get out into the dangers beyond. Inside everything would be perpetually calm "and the skies are not cloudy all day."

But none of us experiences security in that way. How are we really secure?

Do you cover your eyes in the scary parts of action/adventure movies? (You know the parts I mean - Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones is facing hordes of Amazon Indians with poison darts, or a pit full of poisonous snakes, or a huge rolling boulder trap, etc.)

My point is that even though we know that the movie is not real, we identify with the characters. Since we identify with the characters we get excited when they are facing difficult situations. But throughout it all - even though our hearts are beating wildly and we are covering our eyes or yelling warnings at the screen - WE KNOW FULL WELL THAT NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO INDIANA JONES!

How do we know? We know because he is the title character in the film. We know that he is safe because the author who wrote the script won't let anything happen to the main character of the film. The character is safe because the author wants him to be safe. (The author is planning a sequel.)

This is exactly how our security works too. God is the author of our lives - and of our salvation. He has written our story. It may include exciting, frightening, difficult, dangerous and painful chapters. But no matter what the circumstances look like, we are as safe as the Author's love for us. We have nothing to fear. He is in complete control of every aspect of our story. Like the authors of action movies - our Author has a sequel in mind for us.
(Romans 8:35–39) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 ¶ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So get out there and live the adventure, trusting in Jesus all the way. He is "the author and finisher of our faith."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A New Name & A Limp

(Genesis 32:24–25) Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.
Jacob was always wrestling with someone... He tricked his brother, Esau, deceived his father, Isaac, and was tricked by his uncle, Laban. His brother wanted to kill him. His father sent him away. His family life was characterized by disharmony. Laban kept trying to cheat him by changing his wages. Laban's sons hated Jacob because of his success. (Genesis 25:20-31:2)

Just before Jacob's famous wrestling match with God, he has narrowly escaped from his uncle Laban, who had pursued him with a force of men - but who was warned off by God. (Genesis 31:22-25) Then Jacob sends messengers to his brother Esau, who responds by coming to meet him with an army of 400 men. (Genesis 32:3-6)

Jacob is sure he is going to be attacked - and rightfully so. Remember Esau said he would kill him and the army with him was ominous. (Soldiers in those days joined in expeditions so they could share in the spoils of war. They didn't travel like this just to help carry a hallmark greeting card of welcome.) (Genesis 32:7-8)

Jacob is in a jam. Finally humbled, he calls on God in prayer. (Genesis 32:9-12) What does he pray? "I am not worthy. I cannot save myself. I need you to intervene and save me."

That night he sends everyone across the brook ahead of him, but finds himself in a wrestling match with a stranger.

How did this start? When did Jacob know that this man was really divine? Why did Jacob insist he would not let go until he received a blessing? Why would God allow a mere mortal to hold Him down in such a match? God dislocated Jacob's one hip - but certainly He could have crushed him completely. What are we supposed to learn from this passage?

I believe God allows Jacob to wrestle with Him as both a test and a lesson.

Jacob had prayed that he wanted God's blessing and deliverance. But how badly does he want it? Bad enough to struggle all through the night with this fierce stranger? Bad enough to keep on struggling even after his hip is out of joint? Bad enough to stay focused on the stranger's blessing rather than losing his temper? Who won?

It raises questions for us:
Are we struggling with God or just struggling? How long will we wrestle with God in pursuit of His blessings? What dislocations would it take to shake us loose in our struggle? How will we know when we have been blessed?

God blessed Jacob by changing his name to Israel (Literally: he strives with God). Naming someone was a sign of sovereignty. God was saying, "OK, Jacob, I own you. I am your Lord and Master." What a blessing to be God's own servant. Who would you rather serve? Whose side would you rather be on?

Jacob's limp was also a blessing. I think that limp was a reminder that God patiently allowed Jacob to wrestle with Him... and now Jacob's fighting days are over. Now he will be trusting God rather than his own strength. It is a blessing to have been conquered by God. We are blessed when we can trust in God's sovereign goodness and not think we need to bear all of the burdens of our lives ourselves.

God patiently waits and allows us to wrestle with Him. He is willing to teach us what we need to learn, so that even our limp will be a blessing. Hang on for dear life - don't give up - don't let go.