Monday, April 6, 2009

The Path of Impossibility

Acts 13:44-46, “The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.”

I have been reading in Acts over the last week, and it is so intriguing. Sometimes I just need basic answers for basic questions. My husband wants a picture of a hummingbird. He is an excellent photographer and that is a mini-goal of his. Almost every time that I am in the yard, I see one flying right in front of my face. Every time I call to him to get the camera, it leaves. That is an excellent question, “Why do hummingbirds like me and dislike my husband”? There are other more important questions, however, that I do not even know to ask, but when I see the answer as I read scripture, I say, “Yes, that is a heart question for me”. That, in itself, is an excellent reason to read this bible. The Spirit knows my heart and what answers I need. I can recognize the answer without even knowing my need for the question. This is happening a lot these days.

In Acts 13, Paul is talking to the Jews in Pisidia about Jesus. He is making this beautiful plea to almost the entire city (v. 44), presumably many people. He and Barnabas are rejected, as they often were. This is where it gets interesting. They were rejected because of jealousy (v. 45). When I see that I think of the gospels. That was the primary motivation of the leaders that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a strong emotion.

So, as we read on we see a basic answer which begs a basic question. I do not have a common life experience to the audience of Paul. I, also, will never be as lucky as they were, to sit at the feet of Paul and Barnabas…I mean, come on. Yet, as different as we are, Paul says something here that is true for each human. The reason that we reject God is because we judge ourselves to be unworthy of eternal life. Granted this is complex, but it is succinct and inclusive.

First of all, we reject God. So we can even the playing field, let’s just understand that we all reject God in small or big ways. We reject His commands and we reject His love. We reject that He knows us better than we do, and we reject the best that He has planned for our lives. There are many ways that these play out; we judge, we covet, we hate others and we hate ourselves. This rejection says that we are in control, we are the judge. We know what is best for us. It seems kind of silly for the created to know more than the Creator. We are silly people. Remembering this will make us grateful for His faithfulness.

The next is judging ourselves…let’s stop there. We actually stand in judgment of ourselves. That means that I make the decision to use my judgment. I decide to reject God based on my superior understanding of myself. Through my decision making process I declare myself unworthy of God’s gift.

I was just doing some of my mentoring work last night. I am studying decision making. When we look at decisions in front of us, USUALLY, the decision that points to Christ is more difficult. That is why we often choose the other way.

God’s way seems insurmountable most of the time…so how do we accomplish His way? We don’t, He does; it is His way. God is glorified by our decision to do it His way. We will always opt for the easy way that leads to death because we cannot accomplish the things of God on our own. It is intentionally set up like that. So this judgment of myself is limited to what I can see, easy and hard. The decision is between two things. I look at the impossible…eternal life, and I look at the familiar…what I can accomplish myself.

Let’s assume that we choose God’s way, the hard one; it is now in His hands. We don’t have to touch it again. We do what He tells us and the burden is light. Standing in judgment of ourselves is like a death match with our nature. We cannot win. This is why he gives the people in the bible strange and impossible tasks, so they will never rely on themselves. Have you ever tried to overtake a major city by walking around it and yelling? Neither had they (Joshua 6). The impossible is where God is glorified. We cannot do it, so let God have it.

So, we come to the strangest and most impossible task of them all. Believe in Christ and He will give you eternal life. To make this decision, I have to ask what I believe about myself. Will I reject Him? Will I tell Him that I have it all under control and I don’t need help? Will I claim the seat of judgment over my own life? Have I done that well on my own, that I actually believe that I know what is best for me. No, in fact, many years ago, I wrote a prayer of surrender that I prayed every morning. I slid out of bed and said,

I have seen where I can take myself

I have been alone, scared, sick

Only You, only Your power, Only Your love can save me

I had never been amazed, joyful or embraced until I knew You

I cannot do anything by, for, or using myself

I beg for your kindness once again

To take my life and make me yours

I surrender to You because there is nothing else

I know where I will take myself. I have judged my affairs falsely, and I will not reject my Lord. I will not stand as my own judge…frankly, I stink at it. I am only worthy of this Savior…the Messiah because He stands in judgment. It all hangs on that one thing. I cannot be worthy of eternal life, but through the blood of Christ I am because He made that decision. I carry His identity. I am no longer myself. This is no longer my life. Hallelujah. Knowing this, let us choose Him with all of our life. Let us make Him the judge of everything today. We are worthy of His gift because He chose to give it to us. We are the beloved. Let’s live today like we know it.

Thank you, Jesus, for claiming us as your own, for giving us hearts that recognize you. Be my judgment; be in charge today as I rest in releasing my life to you. Thank you for your light burden. Thank you for including us in your kingdom.

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