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26 September, 2013

Faith - Part 4

Hebrews 12:14 “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
The writer of Hebrews sometimes makes me smile. Through the book, you can tell he has a burning passion and he is trying so hard to plead his case to show the Jews how important it is to get in line and continue the path with God, but through Christianity. At the same time he is talking to the people he knew were in trouble since they had reached a place in their walk with God, they were distressed because of the persecutions they were going through. If you read Hebrews 10:31-39 you will see that he was eager for these people to understand how important it was to continue in the faith. Even though they have started great and suffered a great deal through humiliation (v. 33) to being destitute as they lost their property (v. 34) He was pleading with them to continue because he knew, if we do not continue we forfeit the race.

So, when you read chapter 12 you find that by the time you get to 18-24 he is mainly talking to the Jews on the sideline. He was pleading with them by using imagery and a comparison of the old and new covenant to help them understand that the new covenant was far better than the old.  I chuckled when I read verse 14 because I become conscious that he dropped a bomb on us, yet it is buried in there as if it was an after thought. I felt like he was saying, pursue peace with all men, and remember there is this thing called sanctification without which, even though you have been through all these troubles losing your property, being humiliated, but if you do not go through the process of sanctification, you will not see God. Imagine that you have been through all this with God and lost so much for Him, yet you are finding out that you might not see Him if you do not continue, this is not comforting at all. The writer’s mind was not concerned about being politically correct or making people feel good by minimizing words. There was a danger that they did not seem to be aware of and that was his point.
Even though I chuckled, I do understand where the writer is coming from. There are enough people out there that can write and make you feel loved but you read their posts or their books, you are left with a good feeling, you might even feel it would be nice to follow God, then the feeling subsides. When you love with agape love in your heart, you know the difference when it is time to bring comfort, love and sympathize with people. You know when it's time to be patient with them and you also know when it is time not to mince words but say those words that might be hard to hear, but love them enough to shake them out of their complacency and get them to think twice, and get a move on.

Paul gave us an example of such love and mercy at work when he told the church in 1Corinthians 5 to throw the man who was being immoral, out of the Church. He did it out of love and mercy to save the Church from fraternizing with such individual to avoid the spreading or the acceptance of his sin. Furthermore he did it because he loved this man as well, but since he could not come to his senses and stop sinning, drastic measures had to be taken. How do I know Paul did it out of love and mercy? Well, you just have to read 1Corinthians 5:5

One of the reasons that it is of the outmost importance that someone must love you enough to tell you what you do not want to hear, when your heart is not right with God is because unbelief robs us of this life God wants to share with us. I will share a personal example with you, which I have been dreading but I find some peace in the spirit to share for the good of those reading this post. If one person can be touched by this story than, glory to God. I have someone in my life who is a family member. This person was raised in what you would call a Christian home. Their Christianity was handed down from parents to grandparents. While this person’s life is a disaster when it comes to Christianity, I just want to share one example with you.

Imagine watching this person being livid with their spouse on a Sunday morning and the problem stemmed from not being in control and the manipulation process was not working well enough. When we got to Church we found that it was communion day. The other spouse who is subjected to this person’s whims, decided to try to make peace by holding the control freak spouse’s hand as if to say “ you and I are on the same team, let’s make peace and move on”. I watched this control freak pushing the hand of peace offering away with some sort of repulsion and vengeance. In the meantime, I am trying my best to enjoy the service, almost in vain because the body language of that person sitting next to me was charged with hatred, narcissism, resentment etc. When it came time for communion, people were forming lines to go forward toward the pastors. I saw this person standing up toward the line; I was so sure it was perhaps for my benefit so that I could pass by and join the line up. To my surprise this person was one of the first one to receive communion. I remember sitting there with an expression of shock on my face and I was trying to get my face back to normal before this person comes back, but it was so hard that I felt the need to keep my head down to avoid face to face contact.

The sad thing is this person’s narcissism is coming from one of the long time Christian parent.  The resentful mind, the constant need for a fight, learning not to forgive, keeping bitterness in the heart and learn to live with it decades after decades are all learned from the other parent. So, you can understand why this person felt there was not a problem going forward receiving communion. Every time I am given the opportunity to say something, when I try to open my mouth, I am told I am the one who does not understand salvation. The second reason this family has not bothered with anything else that pertains to the inward work of salvation is because they said God’s word promise to hear when we call Him. The third reason is that God is love so there is nothing to fear because He loves them and always forgive. Believe me I am repeating verbatim what was said to me. Another reason these people feel they must be Christians is because they have status since they were elevated to leadership in the Church, they have years of missions under their belts and they truly sound impressive. Since they are well educated and articulate, people are drawn to them. I just have the pleasure of knowing them in the background.

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Remember these are people who spend great time with God in the morning, and would not dare miss a service on Sunday unless it is warranted.  Keep also in mind that none of these people are what you would call “young” These are people who constantly talk about how they love God. Yet, the word hell has been minimized like crazy based on some pastor’s preaching found somewhere. Certain words have disappeared from their vocabulary like repentance, sanctification and so on, apparently God will honour His word because He cannot lie and He will sanctify them at the right time to take them to Heaven. It does not matter what verse I choose in the Bible it is shut down with these words “God is love and He always forgives and God loves me.” Please keep in mind this is the mildest story that I can share with you. In fact I was talking to a pastor to find out how do I deal with them and how can I help? The pastor answer was “are you sure these people are Christians? I said oh! Yes as sure as I you and I are standing there. Then, the Pastor followed by, “then they need to be exorcised” – I laughed because that’s not what I was expecting. I decided the only remedy left is to keep praying very hard every day.

You know why I shared this story with you? While you might be reading this and said well, these people are blind and you and I are not that bad, but the truth is, we are always one step of becoming one of those sad Christians. I am sure at one point they were not that bad either. But, this is why we ought to heed to God’s word because when we allow unbelief to enter our hearts and we do not deal with it right away, before we know it, we find that it eats us up like a cancer contaminating anything good we had inside of us. When we minimize unbelief and hide behind God’s promises we become infested and it shows up in every choice we make in our Christian walk with God. Furthermore, day after day we are desensitized and become detached from the reality of true Christianity. We blatantly lie to ourselves but we have drifted away so far from the Lord, we cannot hear His voice and Romans 10:17 becomes just a formality. These peoples' faiths are built on human understanding, their own strength, abilities, and intelligence

Yesterday I read on Facebook someone said, it is not how you start, but how you finish the race (something to that effect) I smiled when I read it because I know if the Christian life was about how you start, I would have been disqualified right there.  Last night when I was in front of the computer, I stopped to examine my heart with God. You know what? None of us, no matter how far we have walked with God are exempt from being tempted to give in to unbelief. The key is to recognize it, and shut it down as soon as it comes into your life. I have to confess that some days, unbelief is right at my doorstep as I try to come to grips with the fact that God has not made one move that would indicate He intends to replace what I lost as I follow Him. Sometimes I spend a whole morning moping, but, I know I have to get out of it and grab onto the fact that in spite of everything, He always provides for me. It has nothing to do with the way I expect Him to provide, but nevertheless, He provides always the basic and always in the nick of time. So, I learned to get my act together, ask for forgiveness and move on with Him. Does that mean sometimes I fail Him again? Of course I fail Him, but I know it is about a relationship where I have to keep going with one focus in mind which is walking with Him toward that day when He will make me perfect.

Do you know how you know you are in a relationship with Him instead of being someone who only cares about His promises? You will know through the Holy Spirit witnessing to you that you are on the right path, it is actually His job. You will know, because you have given permission to Him to penetrate your soul with His fire of love without an anaesthetic since He wants us conscious when He invades us inside.  You know it, because you are opened to the depth of the reality of this life, and because at any given moment, you are found at His feet (in the spirit) while you say to Him “though He slay me, yet I will trust Him. THAT’S THE WORK OF YOUR SALVATION, AND YOUR FAITH AT WORK! Brother and sisters there is no pause button in this life, we have to keep going forward with Him not our way, but His way.