Friday, December 21, 2007

"Sinner" Magnet!

     I will return to the theme of obedience (how obedience and intimacy are related), but I had the Lord drop something on me this morning that I had to share.
     I was headed to Luke 15, the story of the Lost Son, because Papa had been speaking to me about how to avoid becoming like the older brother. I was arrested by the Holy Spirit, however, as I read the first two verses of the chapter. I have always known that Jesus was called "the friend of sinners" and was truly a "sinner" magnet, but somehow the contrast between Him and how Christians are perceived by pre-Christians today became more real today than ever before.
     Luke 15:1-2 says, "Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (NIV) As I read these two lines this morning I was struck by how completely different Christians have generally become from Jesus! When was the last time we heard of "sinners" constantly gathering around a Christian to listen to him/her? I live in Colorado Springs, a city so badly divided between churched and unchurched people that it's best not to pray over a meal in a restaurant with your head bowed and where some of the more popular bumper sticker are "Focus on your own damn family!" or a fish symbol with "sushi" for the letters, etc. How ironic that the city with the highest percentage of churched people in Colorado is also the city known among unbelievers as a bad place to live!
     So what happened? I find myself often asking Jesus, "How did those whom you love so much, over whom you and your angels rejoice when they return to you more than over us, become my enemy?" The answer, of course, lies somewhere in the terrible definition that the "church" has given to what it means to be a Christ follower. If being a follower of Jesus means that we merely join a club and take sides, then of course there are those who are "in" and those who are "out." But if to follow Jesus means that we are joined in intimacy with Him and His heart, then we will also become sinner magnets, exuding His love, presence and power so consistently and powerfully that people who don't know Him will want to hang around us. We will earn the right to share our faith by honoring, respecting, caring for people without strings attached, etc. We will trust the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit, and we will overflow with kindness and goodness rather than draw lines in the sand.
     Okay, I am on a roll here, so I will stop. You get the point, I trust. And for me, I am now asking Papa to help me be willing to check and see if those who don't know Him are drawn to me because they know that I genuinely care for them in a way similar to how Jesus cared for "sinner" in His day. A pretty good measuring stick, methinks.
     Let me hear from you on this one, please. We will all benefit from the rest of the story that Papa will give to some of you.

Have a wonder-filled Christmas.

Tom, one of Papa's children.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Stuck on Obedience

     Those (few) of you who read this blog are going to believe that I am stuck on the concept of obedience, and perhaps you are right. I am beginning to believe that this is one of most misunderstood yet crucially important things in the Church. So for the foreseeable future, I will be continuing to write (short!) thoughts on obedience as Abba continues to give them to me.
     Today I first want to recommend another book (surprise!) that is one of the best I have seen on obedience. It's an updated version of an old Andrew Murray classic, originally entitled The School of Obedience. The Bethany House version of this book is entitled A Life of Obedience, and this book is destined to be added to my short list of "must read" books. Following are a couple of quotes from it.
     "The beauty of salvation consists of this, that He brings us back to the life of obedience, through which alone the creature can give the Creator the glory due to Him, or receive the glory of which his Creator desires him to partake." (page 11). In an earlier post (October 24), I noted that some believers seem to think that they have been "saved from having to obey" instead of being saved in order to obey. Murray's statement here addresses that myth.
     "The secret of true obedience, I believe, is a clear and close personal relationship with God. All our attempts to achieve full obedience will fail until we have access to His abiding fellowship. It is God's holy presence, consciously abiding with us, that keeps us from disobeying Him....A life of broken and spasmodic fellowship with God must be healed to make way for a full and healthy life of obedience. The secret of true obedience, then, is the return to close and continual fellowship with God." (pages 32-33). I know none of you are surprised that I would quote this one! Through our intimacy with Him, Jesus lives the obedient life out in us. As I have said before, we live from God, not for God.
     Now here are a few random thoughts on obedience that I may or may not elaborate on in the days ahead.
  • Obedience is essentially the surrender of the control of your life to another person or persons. That's probably why it's so hard for the children of Adam, eh?
  • The obedience God desires flows from our trust in Him and love for Him (see my post for March 19). It is possible, of course, to obey apart from love and trust (fear can motivate us, too), but it is not possible to love and trust someone and not obey them (John 14:15). Think about that one a while!
  • Trust (aka "faith") gives birth to more than obedience, but it most certainly must lead to obedience (see the NIV's rendering of Romans 1:5!).
  • Perhaps one reason we have such a hard time in our culture with obedience is that our culture is based on individualism and was born in rebellion. Hebrew culture, on the other hand, was community/family oriented and had obedience at its root. Hmmm. Much to ponder with this one.
     Okay, enough for now. I hope to write again later this week to catch up some. I have discovered that I need to write in the middle of the week instead of on Mondays because I travel so much!
     I close with this scripture about Abraham (my paraphrase). "Because He trusted Him, Abraham obeyed when he was called (by God) to leave friends and family behind and go to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not even knowing where he was going!" (Hebrews 11:8).
     Abba, may we trust you more and more because of the continuing revelation of your total trustworthiness, goodness and love! Jesus, live out the life of the Obedient One through us!

Tom, the least of Abba's children.