Month: March 2016

Previews of Heaven: Wanting More

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

Open Door

A good movie preview will be so impressive that it will almost distract you from enjoying the movie that brought you to the theater in the first place. The preview will be tattooed in your mind and the daily countdown to the release date will move slowly. A good movie preview will always leave us wanting more.

The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a process of daily transformation. We often do not see ourselves progress, but, at various moments in our walk, we realize that something in us is changing or has already changed. There comes a point where reading the Sermon on the Mount no longer feels like a list of impossible demands placed upon our limited human hearts, but rather realistic expectations of a renewed heart. The more one becomes recreated in Christ through his sacrifice and grace the more one begins to reflect his nature.

The more we let Jesus into our lives, the more he is revealed in and through us. We are born again in him, and therefore we find unity in our character with his.  At this point we no longer view certain things in the same light as we used to. To begin with, troubles no longer seem like the end of the world. Our jobs cease to define us.  Our relationships cease to guide us.  Our money ceases to control us. The more we become privy to the foretastes of heaven, the more we realize that all earthly things do pass away but the joys of heaven are ongoing, without end. As we walk deeper into this new life and existence in the Holy Spirit, there emerges a push and pull on the heart of two very different worlds.  While we value the time and opportunities God has prepared for us in this world, we anxiously anticipate finally seeing and being with the Lord. Paul puts it perfectly in his letter to the Philippians:

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. (Philippians 1:22-26)

The words “death” and “the end” loom over our lives, applying pressure in one direction or another. We know how fragile this life is, and how with each passing day we inch closer to the end and further from the beginning. Many people are scared of death. This fear is completely understandable. Life is enjoyable, but more than that, it is known. Death is an end we know nothing about.  We never like to see the end of something familiar and good and death signals such an end. With the knowledge of death constantly looming overhead, we feel pressure to achieve or become something in the time we have left. It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that breaks that chain.

Jesus proclaims that to believe in him is to have life, not death. And in his words we come to the understanding that this life is simply a preview for something else, something wonderful, something confidently promised and assured. Whenever Jesus speaks about heaven in the Gospels, he always says that it is “like” something. The reason he teaches about heaven in this way is because to describe heaven accurately to a human mind is impossible. A human mind cannot fully understand it. He uses the word “like” because heaven is “like” nothing else we totally know of yet.  There exists no true comparison for us to appropriately use.

In his brief, powerful dialogue with the thief hanging next to him on the Cross, Jesus clearly believed in the place he so confidently promised to lead the man after their suffering was to end.  Jesus described it as “paradise,” and so we must believe it to be, a place of life in Jesus that does not come to an end. Forever enjoying the presence of the Savior. For the Christian, this desire for Heaven isn’t about what we will get or see or do there, but about knowing Jesus completely. This process begins here in this life, but not until Heaven will all the work of God in us be made complete.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Kings 6

bibleRead 2 Kings 6.1-7

Grace is a concept easy to accept upon becoming a Christian but more difficult to believe as we begin our walk with Christ.  We know how much Jesus has done for us.  We know how our prior condition was not only harmful to ourselves but to others around us.  We know that the promise of eternal peace and joy in Heaven is real.  We know that the struggle with our sinful nature is ever-present and ongoing.  However, after “knowing” all of this, many Christians fail to move.  They feel like to move is to open the door to making the wrong decision or going in the wrong way or hearing the wrong thing from God.  We are paralyzed by fear, suffocated by hypotheticals and worst-case scenarios.  We don’t want to mess up.  We don’t want to make a mistake.  We don’t want to lose what God has offered us.

But while all of these feelings are natural and justifiable, where is the heart of the Gospel?  Where is the cross?  Where is the resurrection?  Where is Jesus?

When you met Jesus, did you meet a savior who sought opportunities to punish wrongdoers, or who brought healing and forgiveness?  Did you meet a savior who set traps for people to fall into or who was the first to reach out and touch the unclean and unworthy?

The tragedy of the Christian is the fear of making mistakes.  While the Gospel of Jesus Christ MUST establish a new heart and a new way of life, must seek to honor God and His commands and must never tolerate sinful behavior, there is still grace.  There MUST be grace! There is still understanding.  There is still the authority of the living God to cover a multitude of sins by the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The mark of a Christian is how often and willing we are to allow God’s authority and glory to be revealed in us.  This often comes by the action of faith.  The faith of a Christian is believing that the living God is real and is with us.  The God of Creation commands us to move, to work, to live, all for His glory.  If we love God and choose to serve Him with all that we are and all that we have, mistakes no longer become a paralyzing fear.  Fear of making mistakes is predicated on an expectation of perfection.  Punishment is associated with fear, and if we believe in Jesus, we know the punishment was His and is not ours.  We will of course make mistakes. We will fall.  However, the God of Creation has never demanded perfection from us, but has desired for us to choose Him first.  Our salvation does not hinge upon our perfection.  Our salvation rests on if we believe in Jesus, who embodies perfection.  Faith in Jesus allows us to try and fail, to move and to fall and to reveal a Father who loves that we believe.

Previews of Heaven: The Confident Claims

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

Open Door

Movie previews are great at making the particular featured movie seem like the best movie ever made, ever. It doesn’t matter if the actors in the movie have a track record of box office busts or if the director has “lost his touch.”  During those two minutes, anyone can look like a genius. I remember a few years ago there was a lot of hype about two movies. The first movie was a science fiction movie, “Cloverfield.” The preview for this movie had a lot of people talking and the hype was impossible to avoid. The other was a movie called, “The Happening.” This movie was from the director M. Night Shyamalan, of such box office hits as “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs.”  Many people were talking about how great this movie looked and how excited they were to see it. However, when both movies were released, audiences were largely disappointed. Moviegoers felt taken by the timeless “preview” illusion.

Throughout our lives we will all experience setbacks, obstacles that try our patience, strength and character. As time progresses, many often resign to the particular belief that, “thus is life.” There is a resignation to a belief that some things just go wrong. People get hurt, things don’t work out and there is ultimately nothing we can do about it. But the Bible says otherwise. In the Bible we read that we all can experience the fruit of the Spirit during our time on Earth, and that in Heaven, suffering, pain, sadness and injustice will be reversed and undone.

Heaven promises a reemergence or renewal of the original state of existence, an existence void of all of the things unwelcome in this life like pain and suffering. There is a reason why, regardless of our differing religious beliefs, we all are so uncomfortable with crimes against the innocent and the breaking of a heart. The Bible explains that this inner distaste for such things lies at the heart of our original state within the original creation. We are troubled because we were not made for this place. We are troubled because this “preview life” is only a preview with foretastes, but not the actual full-length feature. Paul expands on this point in his letter to the Philippians:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John is given visions of this final recreation and return to the original creation.  The visions of John support the claims of Jesus in regards to the final act of “recreation” and “regeneration.” 

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Kings 6

 

bibleRead 1 Kings 6

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.”

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

A Christian’s purpose is not for independent growth and prosperity.  We are by nature designed for fellowship and to be incorporated into a design of life that replaces our attention on ourselves with attention on our relationship to others.  It is in the design of God’s body that we see our purpose in the the greater complexity of the design and structure that we are a part of.  A temple is built to evoke awe and admiration from those that look upon it.  Likewise, the strength of the body of Christ correlates with our understanding of the whole as opposed to the self.  If we claim Christ as our savior we will naturally be drawn to fellowship not merely for our personal satisfaction but because we can see the Father’s glory represented by our lives as the Church, just as the temple’s strength reflected Him.

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” 

[F]or all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27 )

The blocks of the temple arrived at the site of the temple dressed, carved, measured and ready to fit into the temple’s design.  Once at the temple, nothing was left to be done to the stones in order to make them fit in the structure.  The stones were prepared and so fit perfectly.   While Christians differ in appearance, background, nationality, age, and countless other characteristics, one uniting factor miraculously allows all of the blocks to fit together perfectly.  The unity of the body of Christ comes by the saving works of Jesus Christ.  If the unity of the body of Christ is anything other than Christ, only sections of the temple will fit, leaving the rest with no place or purpose in the overall structure.  In other words, a Christian is clothed in Christ and then is able to fit perfectly into the temple, revealing the strength of the stones in their unity, and the brilliance of the structure in its size and splendor.

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” 

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

Living in Christian community is not easy and it never will be.  The process of individuals breaking their addiction to themselves alongside others taking on the same challenge will always reveal pain and obstacles.  However, the hope in Christ is that although the challenge is real, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the process can be smooth and does not have to be violent.  Hammers, chisels and iron tools are powerful and can inflict enormous damage on a stone.  However, being made in the image of Christ, while painful to our sinful nature, is a process of peace, joy and love.  Being made in the image of Jesus Christ is a threat to Satan and the work of sin but in the name of Jesus Christ we can find peace, joy and love amidst and throughout the rebuilding process.

7In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.”

 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

The awareness that we are made to be built into a structure with others, the foundational presence of Christ in us, and the Spirit of Christ guiding us through the building is an ongoing procedure the same way that the building of Solomon’s Temple was ongoing.  The Temple of Solomon was eventually finished, just as we will come to completion.  But our completion is not yet.  The building process is ongoing, and while we know that the end will come, we do not know when.  Until then, we build and we are being built, and the glory of an earthly building such as Solomon’s Temple will pale in comparison to the glory in the Temple of Christ in His Church, revealed in a world that has forgotten its Creator, its Designer, its Architect, its God.

 

Previews of Heaven: The Best Moments

This reflection series is about Heaven. To download this reflection series, go here.

 

Open Door

source

The relationship between the moviegoer and the movie preview is a complicated one. On one side, we appreciate the previews because by them we stay hooked into the world of movies and entertainment. By watching previews we are updated on the latest and greatest in cinematic brilliance.  Our interest in movies remains consistently high. On the other hand, the movie preview can be something we’d rather do without. The sole motivation that brings us to the movie theater is the feature film, not just a preview. It is for the feature that we blocked out 3 hours in our schedule and paid for our tickets.  We know that in order to stay excited and in tune with the latest movies, we must see the previews.  Therefore, we accept the preview more as something to be endured than enjoyed. Previews are made to achieve three primary goals. They should:

  • Display the best moments
  • Make radically confident claims
  • Leave us wanting more

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to use this analogy of a movie preview to compare with the way Christians are instructed to think about Heaven while we are living for Christ on the Earth.

————————

It’s always amazing how a two minute trailer can make almost any movie, regardless of the true level of cinematic quality, seem worth watching. This idea reminds me of an episode from one of my favorite television shows, Seinfeld. In one particular episode, the flawed “people’s person” George Constanza finds himself dating a girl who has no knowledge of his long list of faults, flaws, and setbacks. He proceeds to act like everything he’s accomplished in his life (a job with a steady and competitive salary, knowledge of New York City and a stable standard of living) had all miraculously come together within days. By doing this, he hoped to impress his new girlfriend with his sudden success and accomplishments. While telling his friend Jerry about this plan, he said, “You know, if you take everything I’ve done in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent!”

This is exactly what a movie preview attempts to do. The preview has two minutes to condense the best moments, the most action-packed fight scenes and the funniest one-liners into a compact one-two punch experience that will leave everyone anxious for its release. This is why so many movies wind up failing at the box office. In many cases, the preview outdoes the feature film.

Speaking in terms of our earthly life and its relation to heaven, what we experience in this life is what the Bible calls a “foretaste.” Embodied in the life of Jesus Christ, then regenerated in the lives of disciples, are experiences and foretastes of things unknown, yet promised. At the heart of each of our lives are experiences of purity and perfection that are only attained and experienced intermittently.

Paul writes about these experiences by comparing them to “fruit” when he writes in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

During our lives, God willing, we all will experience each of these at their purest form at least once. These moments tend to last only for a little while, but we remember the experience forever. The moment we were truly loved by someone, we never forget. The moment someone was truly faithful to us, we never forget. The same can be said about all nine “fruits.” These fruits are born out of the Spirit and the Spirit is born out of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his being and identity, Jesus embodied all of these fruits. They are, in turn, recreated and reflected in the lives of those reborn of the Spirit.

The difference between the way that we experience this “foretaste” and the way that a movie preview attempts to impress a moviegoer, is that there is no secret that the movie preview is attempting to sell something that cannot entirely satisfy. If the movie is not as good as the preview, the audience is unsatisfied. But even if the movie is as good as the preview promises, it’s still simply a movie. In this case the audience, while completely entertained, leaves exchanging comments like, “Well, life’s not like the movies.” But the essence of the fruit of the Spirit as a foretaste to something unknown, something wonderful, and something promised, is the truth that the foretaste is for something that exists.  That offers satisfaction, and ultimately delivers. This “thing” is heaven, and it is there that we not only can experience these fruits individually, but also where we experience all fruits simultaneously in an ongoing coexistence with the “gardener” himself, God.

Tuesday Devotional: 2 Samuel 12

bibleRead 2 Samuel 12

Often we understand the act of sinning in the same way we understand breaking a rule.  Committing a sin is doing something you are not supposed to do.  Although to a certain extent this understanding is accurate, the reality of sin that requires a savior is much more complex.

If avoiding sin was as simple as not breaking certain rules, then there’s reason to believe that we could do away with sin altogether with hard work, focus and determination.  If we can be law-abiding citizens when it comes to traffic laws, why can’t we be law-abiding citizens when it comes to God’s law?  The difference between breaking a traffic law and sinning against God is that one brings to mind a clear framework of consequences, while the other does not.

When we approach a red light we slow down to a full stop, because we know that if we are caught speeding through a red light and breaking a traffic law we will have to pay a fine that we would rather not have to pay.  So we stop.  Sin is different.  While there are specific things God has commanded us not to do, we tend to understand God in one of two ways.  On the one hand, God is love and Jesus forgives us so we say, “Sorry,” and we move on, no harm no foul.  On the other hand, God is outraged with our transgression, but thankfully can be appeased with enough prayers, lit candles, hours at the church or hours reading the Bible.  We say we understand the consequences of sin, but in reality we believe strongly that the terrifying consequence of eternal damnation can be avoided or prevented at the hand of grace or good works.

The biblical representation of sin and the problem of sin is quite different than most of us think.  While we tend to view sin as action the reality is that sin is an identity.  It is not something we do from time to time.  Sin is something we are, what we breathe in and out even in the moments when we feel far from sinful thoughts or actions.  Sin is in us. It is desperately, persistently seeking opportunities to act.

To understand sin in our lives we must understand its origins.  If we look at how sin entered the world we learn two things that help us to understand the echo of sin throughout history and into the present day.  First, sin entered the world as a result of direct disobedience to God’s command and God’s creation.  Second, and more importantly, the act of disobedience was preceded by the belief in a lie: that we know better than God what we should or shouldn’t do, and that while God seeks to merely glorify himself, freedom from God would end our bondage to His laws and allow us to create our own laws and rule according to our own desires.

Looking back to the origin of sin it also becomes clear that the consequences of sin are more comprehensive and expansive than we once thought.  If sin is disobeying God’s commands and creation and deciding to glorify ourselves as opposed to God, sin is not what we “sometimes do.” We sin throughout the day, and the impact  of our sinfulness on others, the world and God is too complex for us to cover up.

Sin is our instinct, and it is a destructive one.  Sin does not multiply peace.  Sin disrupts peace.  Sin destroys peace.  It is vicious.  Sin blinds us to the consequences our actions and thoughts have on those around us in wild self-glorification.  We can’t fix our sinful natures; we need to be rescued from them. The most powerful prayer we can pray is “Lord, save me from myself!”

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Victory

This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here

The Power of the Victory

We are born with complex and demanding desires. As we grow beyond infancy, our desires grow rapidly beyond physical needs and move into the realm of the sinful desires of the flesh. We begin to want more than we need. We begin to want what we forgot we already had. We begin to want what we don’t need. We even begin to want the things we know will harm us.

Sin has devastating power when allowed to mingle with our human desires. As we grow, these irrational and illogical desires grow too. Although we read that God is enough and that he supplies our every need, we easily become dissatisfied with his provision and turn to the world for what we “need.” The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not simply a return to our Creator. It is a return to who we were at the time of that creation. At that time, all we knew was our Father; all we knew was how much he gave us. The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not simply illuminate the satisfaction in Church fellowship, Bible reading or positivity toward the world. We become deeply satisfied with God. The baptism of the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the deception of worldly satisfaction and gratification. Where in the past our desires were for our relationships, jobs or money, the baptism of the Holy Spirit reveals the truth: that sin has deceived us into believing that we truly need those things when in fact we were never designed to have any of them. Originally, we were designed to have God and God alone.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit through baptism, we are reintroduced to that original design.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”
Psalm 62:5-12

Upon being baptized by the Holy Spirit, all else fades in the presence of the Creator God who knows our name, has called us, has saved us, and continues to bless us. While we can still find joy in our jobs or relationships, they simply further illuminate the love we have for God. We love our job because in it we can share the Gospel or glorify him in our responsibilities. We love our relationships because in them we can grow to be more like him and see the deeper love he possesses toward us. God is and has always been at the center of why we are here and why we are the way we are.

Although sin has marked our worldly image, through Jesus Christ we are allowed to return to the image before sin ever corrupted what was originally holy. The baptism of the Holy Spirit allows for that return and releases the life that follows. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessary to truly know God as we were created to. Without it a Christian life is tragically incomplete.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Samuel 21

bibleRead 1 Samuel 21:1-9

 4But the priest answered David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here…”

Religion requires works that overlook a need for the sake of a score.  The Gospel requires personal sacrifice that creates a heart for the stranger for the sake of Jesus Christ.  In many ways, religion is easier.  We can understand scores.  We can understand a checklist.  What’s difficult for us to comprehend is an open-ended demand for love.  We respond with quantifying questions: “Love who?  How much love?  When should I love?”  This is because our sinful natures are not able to love naturally, increasingly, daily.  Trying to love that way is like holding our breath underwater until we can break the surface and breathe the oxygen we were made for.  But the love of God demands the love of God.  Period.  The first victory is the realization that we are totally incapable of that demand and therefore need God every step of the way.  As much as God wants us to turn to Jesus and rely on him for everything, sin also has a passion for redirecting our attention away from Jesus and back onto ourselves, leaving us more likely to seek our own righteousness through a list  we can follow as opposed to a task that we know we would fail at.

The Gospel always sees a specific need over a specific rule.  Is someone naked?  Give them clothes.  Is someone hungry?  Give them food.  Is someone homeless?  Give them a home.  Is someone sad?  Give them a hug.  These are the standards of Jesus and His Gospel and therefore must be the instinct of a person claiming identity in Christ and calling themselves a Christian.  A Christian does not ask for papers first and then serves second.  A Christian professes faith in the Suffering Servant and is remade in His image.  Not as a leader.  Not as a King.  Not as anything but a servant.  When we realize that our sensitivity to the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters is being overshadowed by our status, our system or our score we must pray that the Holy Spirit convict us of our religiosity and reclaim us in the name of Jesus for the sake of Jesus as a disciple of Jesus.  Actions always speak louder than words, and when our actions glorify ourselves we are no longer servants, no longer disciples and no longer Christians.

 

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit: the Power of the Mission

The Reflection Series for this month is adapted from Reasoning the Rest, which you can read or download from the main menu. This month, we’re reflecting on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Read along with this series here. 

The Power of the Mission

One of the most haunting questions is ‘What do you want to do with your life?” Hopeless wandering is the case for many. They all dream dreams, but rarely follow through on them or find the means to do so. At a certain point of “maturity” we submit to the fact that the most reasonable, “responsible” thing to do is to fall in line, get a job and grow up. After dreams or visions of greater things, this life often is lived under silent protest and open resentment. Hardly the foundation for fulfillment and satisfaction.

The truth is, while there are some gifted with extraordinary physical and mental abilities at birth, for the rest of us, mediocrity becomes a stigmatizing label we bear for the rest of our lives. And while we might go through phases of extraordinary success or development, for most, these phases are short-lived. Therefore, when hearing the “hopeful” messages from the pulpit each and every Sunday that all things are possible, we may snicker silently as we evaluate all of our personal and worldly limitations.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not of this world, but the results of said baptism carry profound consequences in this world. Where our worldly life bombards us with reminders of our limitations, the baptism of the Holy Spirit releases a limitless God into the limited world we live in. The baptism of the Holy Spirit does not follow a path according to our known talents, skills or dreams. Upon being baptized with the Holy Spirit, one desire and one desire alone reigns: the desire for God. Our authority to dictate what we can do disappears; our ears are for the first time open to what God wants us to do. Our opinions on what we feel we can do disappear; we are for the first time open to what God believes we can do.

The life that follows the baptism of the Holy Spirit often bears a different appearance to the life lived prior to being baptized. The purpose is different, and thus the means to achieve the purpose is different as well. The baptism of the Holy Spirit ignites a desire to wholeheartedly serve God and share his Word. All else is secondary. God has always desired to release our true design and purpose, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the means by which we experience God’s design. He gives us power by the Holy Spirit to overcome a world of perceived limitations. Through this new purpose and mission we daily grow in our understanding of how much God can achieve if only left unchallenged and unobstructed, by a heart previously consumed by sin.

This is what the LORD says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:16-19

Tuesday Devotional: Ruth 3

Read Ruth 3bible

12Although it is true that I am near of kin, there is a kinsman-redeemer nearer than I.  13Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to redeem, good; let him redeem.  But if he is not willing, as surely as the Lord lives I will do it…”

Sin is not a fun or comfortable word.  It conjures up a collage of negative imagery that most of us would rather not think about.  However, while the consequences of sin or separation from God are terrible, perhaps we can approach the word through another word that most of us are comfortable with.  The word is hunger.

Sin capitalizes on our appetites.  Throughout the day we have a physiological appetite that nourishes our bodies, and a variety of appetites related to our emotions and our personalities.  Sin within us finds a good thin, something we all have a healthy appetite for, and makes it into an ultimate thing that we are starving for.  Over time, left unaddressed, sin creates in us a famished appetite that hunts for satisfaction and pleasure, an unhealthy need for a particular thing.  Appetite does not consider right from wrong, consequences or righteousness.  Sin creates in us an addiction that relates the thing we hunt for to the source of our emptiness and our need to fill it in order to survive.  Sin creates a spirit in us that ignores right and wrong, and ultimately opposes God altogether.

On our own we are not able to control this appetite.  This is not to say that everyone who is not following God is a rabid animal wreaking havoc on villages of innocent people.  However, sin unaddressed creates in a person appetites that have the power to kill or take away the good things in our life.  Sin can destroy a marriage.  A job.  Friendships.  Families.  Sin creates self-righteousness and destroys mercy and grace.  Step by step, sin divides rather than creating harmony.  Submitting our lives, including our appetites, to Jesus as our King and Savior, we are suddenly given the power to not only resist our prior feelings of starvation but we begin to lose our appetite in our old addictions and instead hunger for new things, pure things, Holy things, Godly things.  While sin creates a tolerance for theft, the righteousness of Christ creates a hunger to give away what we have.  While sin feeds a tolerance for dishonesty, the righteousness of Christ creates a hunger to tell the truth.  It is beyond us to always do the right thing, especially when doing the right thing stands in the way of us feeding our appetites.  But as Christ said, “With man this is impossible.  But with God, all things are possible.”