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Archive for the tag “faith”

For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…

I’ve been thinking about this quote all day. It caught my attention this morning. I am one of those mended traitors.

Lewis‘ statement drives home the point Jesus made when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) One cannot fully partake of this kingdom filled with unbankruptable resources, unlimited power and unending peace until one is willing to see him/herself as a paupered orphan in need of adoption by the Father of all, a renegade from the absolute laws of the universe who is nonetheless invited to become an heir of the highest King.

This is where every salvation story starts. We stubbornly insist upon viewing ourselves as capable enough, good enough and smart enough to have it all and more without ever needing to resort to God. This is our natural way of thinking.  It doesn’t sound like a blessing to find out that we are poor sinners with no hope of measuring up to a perfect God by our own means. But, oh, how great a blessing it is, for from this lowered, humbled vantage point we first catch sight of what the kingdom of heaven offers.

The essence of humility is recognizing that the highest purpose we can attain to as humans is dependence upon God. There is no other way for man to attain his highest end. “Who, being in the form of God, did not seek the glory in the flesh of being God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8) And – “…the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19)

While operating as a reflex of the mind of God, the Scriptures tell us that Jesus did so much good upon the Earth that the number of books which could be written about it could fill the planet. This tells me that full participation in the kingdom of heaven results in tremendous blessings for the Earth and its residents.

If Jesus, the one and only person who never sinned, lived in complete dependence upon God and reaped results like that, why don’t we follow His example more closely? Because we are earthly minded. We think ourselves rich in so many ways much as a young child thinks he can cross a busy parking lot without holding mom’s hand.

There is nothing attractive about God or obedience to God within the insulation of self-righteousness, self-reliance, and self-rule. The life Jesus lived and then gave away seems repelling, stultifying and grotesque when we are in this mode. “…He has no form or comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.” (Isaiah 53:2b)

But arriving at the last outpost of one’s own ways, at wit’s end, the whole thing begins to look much different. It begins to sound like sweet music to hear that God offers amnesty to traitors. How is it possible?

  • Sin is defined as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary)
  • The justice (or wage) earned by sinning is death.
  • Jesus, by not yielding to sin a single time, earned the justice given to a perfect, sinless person: eternal life and victory over death, a seat at the right hand of God, a name higher than any other name, all enemies made a footstool.
  • Jesus volunteered to trade sentences with us. He took our sentence of death upon Himself, conquered it by His resurrection and has the right to impute the justice He earned to us.

No fortune of man, no noble deed, no earnest desire can exterminate sin. Only one thing can remove it from us – the blood of Jesus. God’s love for His fallen creation is so great that He, as Lord of all, chose to empty Himself and pay the ultimate price to restore us to His original intent for man – to live happily in full relationship with our Creator and with one another. He knew that this would not be possible unless He saved us from the consequence of our own free will to reject His parenting, His kingship. What higher form of love could one imagine?

The blood that Jesus shed when He died in our place is the antidote to sin and death. He is our amnesty, our way back.

If you have failed to measure up and you admit it, you are blessed. If you know that you need help beyond yourself, you are blessed. Make the trade. Offer the little half-empty shot glass holding the extent of your resources to God, and, in return, gain access to the entire storehouse of His kingdom. You’ll wonder why you waited so long!

Job Didn’t Listen to His Wife

Job and His Friends by Ilya RepinMost everyone is at least somewhat familiar with the story of Job, the guy in the Bible who lost nearly everything in a matter of days. His life is a case study on dealing with adversity.  You’ve heard of the patience of Job, right? Rather than yield his soul to the agony of his circumstances, he chose to say, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. Even when his body was smitten with sores and he sat down among the ashes, he refused to entertain his wife’s suggestion that he curse God and die! Rather, he said, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and we not receive evil?”

What was up with this guy? How did he stay anchored to his God through a psychic hurricane, a tsunami, and tornado combined? Job knew things about God and the structure of the universe that some of us, educated as we may think we are, do not comprehend. All of his life, Job walked and talked with God. They were friends and companions, they knew each other. Job’s suffering opened a door for him to know God even better. Job chose, of his own free will, to walk through that door. He could have chosen to shut it and join forces with his wife, accusing God and feasting on bitterness and anger. We all have that choice to make when trials and tribulations come our way. I’ve had some occasions to choose!

Because of what he went through, Job learned many things. He discovered that his human limitations make it silly to project stuff on God. He found out that when something bad happens, the people around us tend to assume it was because of something we did. (Obviously, bad things can and do happen as a result of our actions, but on those occasions we can see the cause and effect relationship between what we do and what happens!) He found out that no matter how good of a person he was, he was still frail, prone to deception, and in need of mercy and grace. Best of all, he found out that his Redeemer lives: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye SEES You.” It doesn’t get much better than this!

The story ends with Job forgiving his accusatory friends and asking God to forgive them. “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” This man took a journey through doubt, fear, and unbelief on a level few others have known. He came through it with his faith intact. Better than intact, actually. His faith gained a depth and a richness and a stability that he could not have obtained through any other means. On the other side of the valley, he was a man who could be trusted with even more blessings than he had before because his heart was steadfast, having been forged in the fire.

I’m calling Job a hero. We need heroes more than ever right now. One of the things I’ve decided to do with this blog is to start collecting stories about lesser-known heroes. Help me make a list.

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