March 14, 2006
Read Isaiah 6:1-4; Luke Ch. 22-23; 1 John 4:7-21
Whether or not you believe in receiving ashes on your forehead and abstaining from meat, Lent is a perfect time for all of us to examine ourselves and reflect on the manner of life we are living for God. St. Paul urged the Corinthians to "Examine [themselves] to see whether [they were] in the faith; test yourselves." (2 Corinthians 13:5a) In my quiet times I have found three areas that I think we need to revisit and grab hold of. Three areas that we may find pretty basic and because of that, three important areas that we often take for granted and forget.
The awesomeness of God (Isaiah 6:1-4): We really don't take God as seriously as we should. It is a comforting fact that He is our loving Heavenly Father who abounds in mercy and grace toward us. We count on Him to hear and answer our prayers. We concentrate on His attributes. His faithfulness, His goodness, His loving kindness, His forgiveness, just to name a few, but do we really understand WHO God is? When Isaiah was granted a vision of the Lord in His throne room, he was so distraught, so aware of his sinfulness that he cried out. Doorposts and thresholds shook. I'm sure that Isaiah shook as well. Angels were all around Him singing and calling to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." (verse 3) Isaiah didn't see a wimpy, grandfather-like man sitting on the throne...he saw the Almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God who split the Red Sea and the Jordan River in two for His people to pass through. The God who sent plagues on Egypt so that His own people could be free. The wind and hail and thunder are in His storehouses waiting to be released. The wind and waves obey Him. Mountains move before Him. He has chariots of tens of thousands and thousands of thousands. He holds the keys to death and Hades. He has all authority and power.
There is a popular song with the title, "I Can Only Imagine." The singer is trying to imagine what he will do when he sees God in heaven. Not to dis the song or anything, but the answer is in Revelation 1:17. When John "saw him, [he] fell at his feet as though dead." Paul was struck down to the ground in a similar way when he saw Christ in His glory (Acts 9:4). Our minds cannot even begin to wrap around or comprehend God. Do we ever just fall on our face in worship because we realize just how holy God is? We can't understand it fully but we need to acknowledge the facts. And we need it to make a difference in our lives, in how we approach a holy God and how seriously we take the "fear of the Lord." We don't take Him seriously enough and we forget the awesomeness of God.
The magnitude of what Jesus did (Luke Chapters 22-23): We really don't take what Jesus did for us as seriously as we should. The cross has become something we wear around our necks and is systematically being removed from many churches today because it is deemed too confrontational to the seeker. Let me tell you, if any church that I went to decided to remove their cross...well, I'm outa there! I say, "Preach the cross. Preach the shame and disgrace that Christ went through." I need to make what Jesus did a part of me. Indelible images on my mind and on my heart so that I NEVER forget His suffering, His shame and His sacrifice. This Lent, revisit Luke: 22-23. Sit at the table of the Last Supper with Jesus and the apostles. Watch him dip bread with his friend, Judas, his betrayer. Watch as He knows that His own will run and His beloved Peter will deny Him. Go with Him to the Mount of Olives and hear Him pray, watch His anguish and see His sweat, "like drops of blood falling to the ground." Have you ever been in that kind of anguish? And His friends were all asleep! Watch Him be arrested after feeling the hot breath of His betrayer on His face from a kiss. Imagine the scourging that left His appearance so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness. (see Isaiah 52:14) And stand near the cross and hear His screams of agony as they crucify Him and He hangs there for hours until He dies. And hear one of the last things that He says, with a love that no other human has ever had before that time or since, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Read the account in Luke, maybe in all four gospels. Read it slowly, not just as a story you've read a thousand times before. He did it for you. Watch "The Passion of the Christ" again. Weep. Feel it. Take it seriously. Take HIM seriously. And let it make a difference in how you live.
Finally, the command to love each other (1 John 4: 7-21): We don't take loving each other as seriously as we should. We love selectively and conditionally. We love erotically. We don't love the way Christ did and the way that He commands us to. "Whoever loves God must also love his brother." If that brother happens to be black, white, sinner or saint....I love him. I love with an "agape", unconditional, benevolent love. I love if you are like me or not. I love if you smell more like the streets you sleep on than Old Spice or Chanel No. 5. I love you if your clothes are worn, tattered and dirty or if you are wearing a designer label. I am to love in your rudeness, your unwillingness to get with the program and I am to treat you with respect. I will not presume to think that I have all of the answers you need to come out of your personal crisis. But I promise to love you through it. God is patient with you...I must be too. And if you fall, I'll help to lift you back up and try again. This type of love seems near impossible but I believe that God never commands us to do anything that He doesn't know we can do. That would not be fair. 1 John 5:3 says that His commands are not burdensome. He gives us the power to do it in Him. Ask God to give you His heart of love. We don't take loving each other as seriously as we should.
We've got our work cut out for us, my friends. It's not enough for us to be content with the fact that we are saved and going to heaven. We have a life to live here on earth and it's time to get serious. Serious about the awesomeness of God. Serious about what Jesus did for us. And serious about loving one another. As I enter the last half of my life, I am bound and determined to live it for Christ, the way His plans for me intended it to. I don't want to come to the end of my life and regret that I never got serious. That I never loved the way I should. That I never fulfilled my destiny. How about you?