Obligation and Purpose

II Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Being an ambassador “…as though God were making his appeal through us” become more real to me this week.  I wanted to implore these people I really care about but instead my appeal was full of frustrated emotion and more loaded with the need to persuade than the desire that anyone might be reconciled to God.  It’s so easy to spout off when you get your mouth and emotion involved.  The fact is being an ambassador for Christ has obligations of grace.

I lost track of the reality that grace at it’s most basic level is God working to give me time to change.  My motivation was more of the problem than my words were, and I blew it. I disappointed myself, and my two best advocates, Christ and my husband.  It’s been a reminder to me of the obligation of, and my need for, grace AND it’s purpose.  

Forgiveness has bound me to these people and grace in a new way AND loosed me to transformation “so that in him [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God”…together.

Negotiate? [Pray?]

Genesis 18:25 Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 

Did Abraham speak to reassure himself or God?
“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” the Lord chose to go and check it out for himself.  It’s personal for him.  “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

It’s personal for Abraham too.  The fruit of the promise the Lord had given him long ago is in sight.  “…the Lord said to Abraham…I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”  Two of the guests had left for Sodom and Gomorrah but “Abraham remained standing before the Lord” to negotiate? [pray?] about how many righteous people it would take for the city to be spared.   His heart was filled with concern because now this would be his son’s future too. 

Did Abraham speak to reassure himself or God?
The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Fifty righteous people became 45, then 40, 30, 20 and finally  Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”  He [God] answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home” …to wait for the future. 

Did Abraham speak to reassure himself or God?
The answer to my question is “both.”  We negotiate? [pray?] to reassure ourselves and the Lord that we do care about the righteous and the unrighteous no matter how shortsighted our faith is as we wait for the future and wonder “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 

The Next Episode

Genesis 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”  While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”  “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 

What began in the garden of all creation became a soap opera story of the loss of promise along with the privilege and perfection of that first couple.  They both had the chance to stand face to face with God and admit what they’d done but Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.  What they’d done just couldn’t be undone.  There was blame with lasting consequences and inestimable loss.

That first fruit had taken root and reproduced itself in a  deadly way in their second son.  Cain murdered his brother Abel.  Then he chose to disavow his guilt with the same technique the serpent had used to defy God and deceive his parents…deflection…the fruit of deceit. The simple use of one question to deflect another – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The fruit of deceit would be the identifying mark on Cain for the rest of his life.  That identifying mark has lasted and the soap opera continues.

We are living in the next episode.  Life is our test of how we deal with real lies and real guilt in real lives.  We are the broken descendants of that first family but we do not have to be marked by that rotten fruit.  We can choose to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”  [Philippians 1:11 NIV]

Serpent’s Test

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [NIV]

“Did God really say…? [fill in the blank]  Isn’t this question the beginning of any test for a believer in God and a follower of Jesus Christ?  The problem isn’t the question itself.  The problem is desiring options that will give us the answer we’d rather have.

The woman had the truth from God.  She had the right answer but the problem was the serpent‘s test had a trick question: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”   Did you notice the crafty option in the serpent’s lie…the word “any?”  The serpent cleverly twisted reality from the one tree God warned them about to “any” tree.  One small lie was enough to become the fruit of doubt with the power to make desire a more palatable option than God’s truth.  Word’s matter!

Compel Us

II Corinthians 5: 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.  16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.

Put to the test…that’s how I feel right now after a week of news about mail bombs, race motivated shootings, upcoming elections and a border “wall” of young military.  This is a test and the answers seem to be multiple choice : nationalist or globalist, right wing or left wing, guns or no guns, justice or evil, hate or love, any means to an end or no end in sight.  This test is not asking the right questions at all and the answers are not really multiple choice.  My prayers are compelled by my fear of flunking the test because the choices offered are so opposite of this Scripture.  Lord, I beg you give us new questions* with choices  based on your absolute truth and real answers compelled by your Word and Christ’s love.

  1. Did God really say . . . ?” Genesis 3:1
  2. Where are you?” Genesis 3:9
  3. Am I my brother’s keeper” Genesis 4:9
  4. Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25
  5. Are you still maintaining your integrity?  Job 2:9
  6. How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” Psalm 119:9
  7. Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21
  8. What shall I do then with Jesus?” Matthew 27:22
  9. Who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15
  10. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Mark 8:36
  11. Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
  12. If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

*Question source: gotquestions

No matter how hard the test is, the real answer to every question has to be “for Christ’s love compels us…Lord help us all. Lord help me!

Installment Plan

II Corinthians 5:4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Installment Plan: Life is God’s first installment in our eternity. He’s provided us with that line of credit so we can obtain and enjoy something of value now based on trust in the reliability of this contract: “God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”

Documentation of need: “we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling”

Collateral: ourselves as proof of the desire to satisfy “the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose”

Limited Terms: a schedule of devotion over hours, days and years in which that line of credit is satisfactorily concluded “so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”

TAKE Time

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Life is like a calendar.  It’s a fixed schedule of “wasting” [the prettier word for aging.]  Those 24 hours in every single day seem like a vast sea of opportunity for renewal but by the time you fall into bed at night you realize the “light and momentary troubles” we call daily life have been like the outgoing tide sweeping away all the moments and hours available.  You can’t count on the efficient management of a calendar to insure renewal.  In fact the calendar is basically only the confirmation of the “wasting” part. 

Time continues to march on.  Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. You’ve heard those before right?  Here’s the secret no one wants to hear; the blessing of renewal is more like exercise. “Finding” time in those 24 hours is an illusion that can waste away your renewal as surely as lack of exercise and aging waste your body.  It’s awful isn’t it?   BUT “we fix our eyes not on what is seen [those 24 hours], but on what is unseen [our need for renewal] since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  It’s your calendar!   You’ll never “find” time, TAKE time for renewal.