July 7, 2011
I used to get so frustrated with the Israelites of the Old Testament. In Numbers chapter 11 for example they are complaining about manna. Manna! Complaining about a daily miracle of Gods provision and wishing to return to Egypt because they had free fish. I guess if you call brutal slavery with a meal plan free they had a point. How could they not be anything but contrite and joyful servants of God? I know I would do better than that! I used to say to myself. Some hard self-examination easily demonstrates Im no better.
I have willfully sinned within hours of my quiet time. I have sinned during direct contemplation of Gods greatness and seeking His will for my life! I have often wished to return to my own familiar Egypt because there was free fish. I have wanted to return to a place of familiar bondage because Gods blessings seem to come with too many constraints and too much seeking out what to do with my free willat the same time.
My word is compass and basically what I am finding is that Id rather walk on familiar trails or sidewalks then go through the effort of trailblazing or orienteering needed to stay on the path God has for me. We talk about the straight and narrow that is free of snares, but not challenges. It may be straight but it still requires discernment and effort because I am crooked.
Case and point: Im sitting at my computer with Pandora on my cool vibe blue station that has some favorite acoustic blues artists and some Five Blind Boys of Alabama and other traditional Gospel thrown in for good measure. Im trying to do my work, but Im also engaged in a mental battle and Im not doing well. Fortunately, along comes three old time Gospel songs in a row including, Im Getting Better All the Time by the Blind Boys. They belt out the chorus:
Im not what I ought to be, but Im better than I used to be.
Im getting better all the time.
They sing that chorus a lot in that song and that was a good thing. It helped usher in Gods grace and the process of surrender. 1 Samuel 15 offers some insight into what God is really into: 22Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
Jesus later reinforces that sentiment in John 6: 28They then said, What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God? [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?] 29Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].
The quickness with which I sin requires an equally quick ability and willingness to repent. But the challenge is to surrender quickly . . . but not lightly. I do not want my words of surrender to become a perfunctory sacrifice that God rejects and finds offensive. Nor do I want that moment of reflection to fail to do its work in me. Sin is not garbage to be collected and taken to the curb weekly in some great formal ritual of purification. Sin is a spill about to stain the carpet that requires immediate and direct action. Surrender authentically in the moment it is called for.
So I must call my sin what it is and turn to Jesus even in my shortcomings: I am not what I ought to be, but Im better than I used to be. Many of sinful actions cant so easily be fixed by our own efforts, but the choice to obey the voice of the Lord and believe in the One Whom He has sent is one we can make instantly, if not lightly.