On this Resurrection day, my thoughts wander. . . .
Yesterday [4/3/21] I spent several hours driving across the Carolinas. Because work delayed my leaving until the afternoon, I didn’t really want to make this drive yesterday; but I had to take the journey if I wanted to be home for Resurrection Sunday [commonly called Easter]. Along the way, I had to slow down several times because of signs saying that "Road Work" lay ahead; these work slowdowns lengthened my journey considerably. I was so glad that the sun clung to the sky long enough for me to recognize the familiar landmarks and signs that lay within a mile or so of my home. [I actually entered the house just as the last afterglow faded from the sky].
During this long drive, I spent part of the time listening to books by Jennifer LeClaire and James Goll. As I listened to their inspired words, my mind went from focusing on the length of my journey and the delays I faced to the goodness and majesty of God. I found myself crying out to God for Him to give me a clean heart and a fervent love for Him and His purposes.
As I relaxed at home after the drive, I realized that my road trip had resembled the spiritual journey that I have been on for the last several months. You see, I didn’t want to take this particular road trip [I had originally made different plans for the week], but this natural journey was absolutely necessary. The spiritual journey I have been on is also absolutely necessary for me to take if I am to arrive at my proper spiritual destination.
I still haven’t arrived at my spiritual journey’s end, but I am beginning to recognize some fairly familiar landmarks. For while I myself may not have travelled the entire length of this spiritual highway before, our forefathers in the faith have carefully described the landmarks and road signs along this way. Some of these road signs, just like the caution signs I saw while driving issue warnings for those on a spiritual quest.
Let me back up to explain something else. This morning [Sunday morning], I woke up feelinga bit ill and very peculiar. I did not want to carry any germs to church, so Mike went without me while I attended church online. I also watched an online documentary that retold the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus from the perspective of His different followers. As I watched, I thought about how we are so blessed to live on this side of the cross; to know what the outcome of Jesus’ death actually means for mankind. I also found myself crying out that I would have a heart of passion like Jesus’; it was the same sort of prayer that I uttered yesterday as I drove home.
As we celebrate this Easter season, we need to remember that Jesus gave us so much through His death on the cross:
All these things are ours, if we only ask for them.
Or... are... they?
Is our freedom from Christ really a free gift? The answer? Yes...and the answer is no. How can a statement be yes and no? Think of this:
The Scriptures tell us to receive the “free gift of God”, but when the crowd on Pentecost, cut to the quick by Peter’s first sermon asked, “What must we do to be saved?” he replied, “Repent and be baptized.” [see Acts 2:14-38] Peter understood that accepting Jesus was not a casual, emotionally-based decision; accepting Jesus’ gift of salvation was a Spirit-empowered, life-changing, transformational event.
Peter, like John the Baptist before him, commanded the people to repent. Repent—an old fashion idea. To repent means more than just to admit that we are sinners, or that we made a mistake, or we are wrong. To repent is to admit not only that we did wrong and failed to do right but it also means to turn and go another way.
Peter also commanded the people to be baptized. Baptism is the process by which we publicly acknowledge that we have repented and that we want our old live to die in the water with Christ so that we may come out of the water, cut off from our old lives, to live a new life in Jesus Christ.
We then are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, asking God to sanctify us daily. And that sanctification means to surrender our ways for the ways of God. Now, generally the word “sanctification” refers to set aside something and to use it only for the purpose for which that thing was designed or created [An example would be to use fabric shears only to cut fabric and not dulling them by using them to cut paper]. Thus, in referring to the use of “sanctification” in the Bible, it means that a person lives according to God’s plan for his or her life. The Greek word for sanctification means “holiness” [as being set aside for God’s designed purpose]. Thus, the process of sanctification refers to our being made holy. Jesus said that only God is truly holy, but as we submit to the process of santificaton, we become more holy—and more like Jesus. [see Mt. 5:48, 1 Peter 1:15-16]. This process is something we must undergo, agree with, and submit to because God has commanded us to be holy [see Lev. 11:44-45, 19:2; 20:7, 26; 1 Peter 1:15-16].
We must live a life of faith, trusting God to change us in ways in which we cannot change ourselves, but we are also required to live a life of humility and obedience to God's Word. Part of that living involves being willing to admit our faults, our failings, to one another and repent—again—when we fail to obey the Lord perfectly or completely. We are never like King Saul to attempt to justify our personal disobedience; stubbornness and self-justification lead [if we continue to walk that path] to a hardening of our hearts, the inability to hear the Spirit, and, ultimately, to destruction.
Yea much of the Church has lost sight of the need for sanctification and the need to repent when we fail to obey God wholely. So much of Church speaks of personal comfort, personal needs, personal satisfaction—forgetting that our comfort, our joy, our personal fulfillment and satisfaction lies in our intimate relationship to Jesus Christ. Our self-centeredness has separated us from our God and our lack of repentance has resulted in a powerless Church with few of the miracles, signs, and wonders that are to accompany all believers on their life’s journey.
And people in the world despise the Church for it. They come to the Church for living water and are given the stagnant, liquid leftovers from the memories of past revivals or personal encounters with God. While people thirst for true justice, compassion, and love, thy find empty programs without the transforming power of God. While Spirt draws many, the lack of true holiness that accompanies the manifestation of the love and power of Jesus in many churches leads folks to hunt for God in all the wrong places. Like moths, they are being drawn to supernatural exhibitions and become enthralled with occultic practices and false religion.
Our freedom isn’t license. Our freedom comes with responsibilities to honor and to serve the one who brought us out of the slavery to sin and death and who made us priests and kings before Him.
Yet we tend to think of Jesus’ suffering and death as a “Get out of jail free card” with no strings attached—not even the strings of love and understanding that bind us to Jesus. We gloat in our emancipation and wave the banner of freedom to cover our self-centeredness and rebellion. We rejoice in our autonomy and refuse to bow the knee and acknowledge the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Instead, we try to make God our “Amazon store in the sky”—demanding He meet our needs while we ignore the needs of others around us.
We, the people of God, need to repent of our lethargy. We need to repent of misrepresenting God. We need to repent of our selfishness.
Oh, God! We desperately need to see our own depravity. We need eyes to see and to understand the truth of our own condition. Father, forgive us. We are blind; we are foolish. We need to have your salve to open our eyes, and we need to realize all our righteousness is as filthy rags.
Lord Jesus, help! May the spirit of repentance seize your people! Begin in me! Let my heart be tender before you, and give me the courage to acknowledge my failings and sins and to repent. O God, let me stick to the narrow way of salvation and avoid the path that leads to destruction.
Father, let me see the signs you have posted along my spiritual journey. Help me respond to the warnings you send through your Holy Spirit. Oh, Lord Jesus, give me the eyes to see myself as you see me. Help me to see where I have allowed disobedience and lies to establish strongholds against You and Your truth. May I have the guts to see my own sin and the heart to truly repent. Wash me again, O Lord Jesus, and dress me again in a clean robe that I might worship you in Spirit and in Truth and go forth to do the work of the Kingdom. Amen.