Apr 20, 2011

God Who?

There once was a man who was always delighted to show off his very elegant home. It was, indeed, impressive. He had spent much time and energy decorating it according to the latest design trends. And it was beautifully and tastefully done throughout.

And the property surrounding his home was perfectly manicured. And beyond that, the latest in security features protected all.

It was very obvious that he was extremely proud of this beautiful and secure living circumstance. And given the level of his achievement, one could easily understand his pride - except for one thing.

It was difficult to ignore the fact that these beautiful and tastefully decorated environs were located on death row at a large prison facility. The reality was that the man had been there so long and had become so mentally and emotionally immersed in creating a tasteful environment in his cell that his mind had blocked out the fact that he lived on death row, and even that, but for a short time longer.

There are those in our world who say, "What need have I of God? I have a happy and fulfilling family life. I have a great job with a very nice income level. I am surrounded by many loyal and supportive and like minded friends. I live in a really good neighborhood. I have the important "toys" that I want. I have the security of various insurance coverage's, and large savings and investments accounts. I have my 'ducks in a row.' So, why do I need God?"

Here is the correct, if perhaps slightly too frank, answer to such a clueless question: "YOU ARE LIVING ON DEATH ROW, DUMMY! - and even that, but for a short time longer. It is not a brilliant move to ignore the only Being in the universe who can commute your sentence."

But isn't this the cosmic mistake of our time: Building a really great "house" in a really bad "location."

John 3:15 and following:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

High Points

Among countless blessings in my life, two pinnacle events have happened to me. The first: I encountered the Cross of Christ. From a deep personal valley of failure and discouragement, I looked up to see it, a beacon of true hope, a matchless opportunity to redeem my broken life.

Glimpsing the Cross from the low perspective of your own desperation is quite different than simply hearing of its worth from others. To know of the Savior intellectually, is not even close to experiencing his brilliance, deep in your own despairing soul. Godly families are great, but even the strongest religious heritage cannot bring you to this indispensable awareness of Jesus. Even the best religious background can do no more than set the stage for the real transformation that flows from the view provided by our own personal brokenness.

And certainly, to be merely assimilated into the social network of the Church is but a cheap counterfeit of true personal redemption. Crisis and pain and deep personal investment in his lordship are simply the unavoidable requirements for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Anything, anything less is but shallow pretense.

It was this redemptive absolute that was forever confirmed to me so long ago in the emotional fires of my own deep valley. And it was this break through that became a pinnacle event of my now 62 years. It was the moment when I was finally able to see the Jesus of the Cross, not merely through intellectual eyes, but through the searching eyes of humble desperation. In that moment, Jesus alone became the magnificent King of my heart.

And once I saw my Savior from the low plane of my own need, then the promise and glory of His Cross burst across the landscape of my mind and circumstance. And the warm blanket of God's rescuing love renewed my hope and encouraged me to a new start and an enduring and sure path for my life. In that low place I found a true Savior. He saved my soul. He saved me from my own self destructive behavior. And He saved me from my then present dismal circumstance.

And that kindly rescue, in turn, enabled the next pinnacle of my life. From those early beginnings in Christ came a call to maturity and consistency. Not unlike the voice inside a child that constantly moves them to "grow up," so was this godly voice that called me forward and caused me to search for some sure and certain means of success. And in that search I experienced the second high point of my life.

So, in one motion, I found a new level of reality through my Savior; and in that reality, I also found that I was as inconsistent as God was real. In my desire to rise and walk on the high plane of God's will for my life I began to discover a new truth. Painfully, it was this: When it came to pleasing God, in both my behavior and my basic being, there was, every day, more failure than success.

While I was glad that my daily failures could be forgiven through Christ, at the same time, the pain and turmoil that those failures caused quickly became unbearable. And I found little comfort, really, in the failure - forgiveness - failure - forgiveness cycle. I wanted a peaceful, and pleasurable, and God pleasing relationship. And the reality was - It simply wasn't there.

So, to the core of my soul, I started to hunger for a means, a way, some source of sufficiency that would bring me peace, and God's consistent approval. I thought it not too much to hope that I was not saved by a holy and almighty God, only to be consigned to the constant daily failures of my fallen humanity.

Turns out, I was right. After some brief time of soul searching, and further humbling, and seeking and praying for a remedy for my constant failure, God gave me one. It was Jesus. Oh, not the Jesus of the Cross, but a new Jesus. He was the Jesus of the Resurrection.

This was the Living Jesus who had the capability to share His very nature with me. This vital and powerful Jesus, though unseen, had the ability to bring his vitality for a God pleasing life to me through the divine merger. And so He did.

On some wonderful day a few weeks after my conversion, the actual date of which I never thought to remember, I experienced the second pinnacle event. It was my spiritual baptism into the Living Jesus. It occurred by some divine operation that I do not, to this day, entirely understand in the mechanics. But, I certainly understand it's results.

Peace came to my relationship with God, and a new level of access, and a new depth of awareness. And the daily failures began to diminish. And consistency of thought and behavior began to rise. And maturity, began to show up in my walk. And eventually the question changed. It went from, "How can I rise above sinful failures," to "How can I be more fruitful in my character?"

The question changed because the issues changed. Jesus, the Living Jesus, the Spirit Jesus of the Resurrection became my power over daily sin. He became my consistency of thought and action. And when His daily empowerment became a reality, overwhelming sin became mostly the issue of the past. Eventually, the major concern became one of growth, and maturity, and fruitfulness in Him. And in that sweet pursuit, a peaceful, and fulfilling, and deeply intimate relationship came to life in real terms with the God who created me.

I will never forget the first day I laid eyes on my wife, Donna. I will forever cherish the wonderful events of our married life. I will never forget the major events and the precious memories of my children's lives. And I have been part of many great moments in my time. But in all of the composition of this thing we call life - from two pinnacle events stem the quality of all the rest: The day I looked up in humility to see Jesus on the Cross that saved me - And the day Jesus shared His divine vitality to relieve the deep and disabling pain of my inner sinful nature.

Romans 5:1. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.