CHAPTER 2   . . . Continued










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Waiting For Your Ministry









The Quest For Fulfillment

Our dilemma – God’s deliverance

If we burst into a hospital and chanced upon a doctor sterilized for surgery, he could not touch us. We may seem immaculate, but not by his standards.

We are like that in the presence of the holy Lord. We may be as good as the next guy, but by the unassailable perfection of God’s lofty standards we are moral lepers. God must keep his distance.

That seems an over-reaction. Being surrounded by imperfection all our lives has jaded our ability to see ourselves objectively. Deep down we suspect the worst but we flee from it like people refusing cancer checks even though early diagnosis brings life, not death.

A favorite, rarely conscious, technique to silence our suppressed but nagging conscience is to concoct a doctored moral code that lets us entertain the delusion that we are morally superior to some people. What drives us to despise certain people or to gossip is not unkindness or snobbishness so much as a desperate attempt to drown the shrieks of our own conscience. We feel less guilt if we can convince ourselves that there are others who are morally worse. Our self-deception is so individual that I am unlikely to guess the reader’s blind-spot, let alone find my own. The following are just three of countless possibilities.

* A man might detest wife-bashers, while he cheats on his own wife, thus loading her dice in the deadly AIDS game. He toys, not with the possibility of injuring her, but with the possibility of killing her. He does this not to her face, but in cowardly deceit. And he is certain he soars at moral heights far above anyone who would slap a woman.

* Or we might label rape a hideous crime, but call the seduction of a married person ‘love’. Seduction ravishes its victims at the deepest level, debauching them so completely as to make them willing partners in immorality. Even the grave offence of rape leaves its unconsenting victims morally chaste.

* Or we might feel superior to criminals when what differentiates us is not morality but cowardice (fear of getting caught, of incurring the disapproval of others, etc.) or lack of opportunity (not knowing how to commit the perfect crime, or not holding a gun at our weakest moment).

Each of us is infected by one of hypocrisy’s innumerable strains. And the most dangerously afflicted are those oblivious to it. That’s why Jesus said blatant sinners are more likely to find God than are the self-righteous. (Matthew 21:31) We are driven to all lengths – even to accusing God of injustice – to try to ease our guilt. We spurn God’s laws, hurt each other, and then have the audacity to blame God for the mess.

‘Why do the innocent suffer?’ we sneer, conveniently forgetting the times our anger, greed and lies have hurt the innocent. (Ultimately, only one Innocent ever suffered – Jesus. Though for our sakes he became man, the eternal Son of God had life independent of human ancestry. The rest of us owe our very existence to wrong-doing. If, for instance, we could trace our family tree back far enough, we would likely find a direct ancestor who was the product of rape or unlawful incest. In other words, were it not for gross wickedness we would not exist. And in our genes – our basic essence – we have our father’s eyes, our grand-father’s walk, our mother’s temper, our ancestors’ sin. Far from being innocent, we were born a product of wickedness and confirmed our guilt the first opportunity had.) For some suspicious reason, there is a degree of hurt we deem excusable, and the hurt we have inflicted happens to compare favorably with the standard we have arbitrarily set. With every atom of pride within me shrieking in protest, I am forced to the shattering conclusion that the moral gap between a sadistic murderer and myself is invisible, relative to the yawning chasm separating me from the flawless virtue of Almighty God.

The Holy One loathes evil but if he enslaved the human will, squelching evil by forcibly preventing all of us from indulging in pet sins, we’d be the first to shake our fists.

If God is a God of love, why does he allow the evil that’s rampant in this world? For anyone not entranced by his/her own double-standards, the reason is obvious. God longs to destroy all evil, and the time is fast approaching when he will. (2 Peter 3:9-13) But how, without unprincipled favoritism, could he do this without destroying you and me?

(I warned this horror story would take you to the edge of your tolerance. Rich rewards, however, await those with the courage to face facts we inwardly know to be true. When approaching a God who can make us more beautiful than we dare dream, we have no need to act like burns patients smashing mirrors.)

Should we reform and never so much as think another wrong thought, it wouldn’t help. If water is contaminated, adding pure water doesn’t help – the water is still contaminated. There’s corruption in our past and we cannot change the past.

Some things God cannot do without violating his integrity. Consider a man in court found guilty of dangerous driving. The judge happens to be a close friend of the defendant. Would it be right for the judge to declare his guilty friend innocent? Or could he fine the offender less because he is his friend? Only a corrupt judge could condone law-breaking or display favoritism. (Romans 2:11)

And God is our Judge, because there is no such monstrosity as a self-made person. None of us decided to come into existence, or can even design our offspring’s fingerprints. God formed the brain cells we think with. We owe him everything. The Lord is maker – and therefore owner – of every molecule and organism we have ever used or abused. Like it or loathe it, that makes us accountable to God for our every action. (Acts 17:31) Our selfishness has hurt people. It would be an outrage for the Supreme Judge to ignore our offences. We’re the ones who bellow at God when we see wrongdoing go unpunished. Though his devotion to you defies explanation, he cannot do other than declare you guilty. And justice demands the penalty be paid.

That leaves just two alternatives. Either you pay the penalty, or someone pays it for you.

It would be sheer conceit for me to consider taking your punishment. I have my own wickedness to answer for. But the Son of God, two thousand years ago, left his celestial judgment seat and came to earth. He became the sole human who has lived a perfect life. In the brilliance of his purity, our highest moral achievements look like mud. So when Christ voluntarily endured the pain and shame of a criminal’s death, something of cataclysmic significance was happening. The timeless Son was taking upon himself full blame for your sin. (1 Peter 3:18)

Physical torment choked in a sea of spiritual agony. On the cross the only person who has enjoyed eternal oneness with God cried, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46) Father God was compelled to desert his beloved Son, treating him as the vilest sinner, until the horrific penalty was paid in full. After absorbing the full consequences of our depravity, Christ broke through to life again, blasting a path for us to follow.

You are the focal point of this heart-stopping display of love, the greatest love the universe has known. Will you continue to spurn it?

Our response

Christ has provided a legal way whereby anyone, though guilty, can go scot-free. But that does not make forgiveness automatic.

To be intimate with the Lord of the galaxies; to have divine power flowing through your veins; to reach the peaks you were made for, requires a response on your part. To explain, let’s return to the reckless driver.

A judge would have to fine his friend for breaking the law. It is quite legal, however, to offer a friend money to pay the fine. It is then up to the offender whether he accepts the judge’s gift.

It would break Jesus’ heart if you slight his offer to suffer for you. The only alternative is for you to bear the penalty. That’s the last thing he wants. God is anxious to save you from the horrors of hell and grant you a fulfilling, life-changing partnership with him. (2 Peter 3:9) But you must accept the gift. That involves admitting that you need the gift – that only Jesus’ sacrifice can absolve your guilt.

There is one more consideration. If our lead-footed friend intends perpetuating the same offences, he is a danger to the community. It would be wrong to pardon someone who plans to continue flouting the law.

Similarly, it would be wrong for God to forgive us until our attitude to sin has changed.

I reel at the thought of the hordes who have tragically missed this point. A second analogy will confirm its centrality.

You are trapped in a sea of sin. Bottomless waters lap towering cliffs. No one can tread water forever. The murky depths terrify you, except for one spot. You’ve found a place where the deadly waters seem beautiful and the sensual waves exquisite. How can anyone take seriously your cries for help if you’re splashing around enjoying yourself? And what’s the point of saving someone who is hell-bent on plunging back after every rescue attempt? No one with a suicidal commitment to a sin can be saved.

This doesn’t mean you must initiate a sinless life to enjoy forgiveness. We’re in sin’s death grip. Only Jesus can break it. But do you want him to? Do you want to be rid forever of your favorite sin?

The Almighty gives us dignity by respecting our wishes. If we don’t want him to be our God – i.e. in total control of our lives – it grieves and appalls him, but in his gentleness he will permit us to go our own way. No one has suffered the pain of rejected love like God.

You can never be forced to love someone. Nor can you be forced to desire purity of heart. The Giver has done all he can. It’s over to you.

To ignore our Creator is the height of selfishness. He is the Source of every good thing we ever enjoyed. (Even sin’s fizzle of pleasure, that slippery shadow of the real thing seized while defying him, is possible only because of our God-given ability to experience pleasure.) Every wonderful thing we take for granted comes from him. He even holds our atoms together. He protects and nurtures even those who ignore him, providing abundant opportunity for them to respond to his astounding love. They don’t want God to interfere, but he does anyhow – showering them with a myriad soft, warm, beautiful, delicious, refreshing, thrilling and inspiring gifts. At death, however, those who on earth wanted to be independent of God are finally granted their wish. That’s the ultimate horror. To be eternally severed from the Source of all love, beauty, fulfillment and joy is a prospect too terrifying to contemplate.

With a repentant attitude towards ungodly ‘pleasures’, however, and a reliance upon the pardoning power of Jesus’ sacrifice, you give God free rein to do what he longs to do – pay your debt to justice and credit to your account the moral perfection of Christ. That makes you so pure in his eyes that you need no longer be isolated from him. You can then commence an endless communion with the greatest Person in the universe.

The contract

What God desires is like a perfect marriage. He wants life-long devotion, fully committed intimacy, not a superficial fling.

Believing in the opposite sex does not make one married. Neither does believing a creed give us the right to live with God. (James 2:17-19) True marriage involves total commitment of all that you have and all that you are. It is believing in someone so completely that you entrust your entire being to that person for life. The Lord is eager to be that devoted to you, but for marriage to work, the commitment must be mutual.

If a street kid married a millionaire, she would get his riches and he would get her debts. He would be tarred with her shame and she would gain his honor. For this to happen, she must turn from rival relationships and bind herself and her meager possessions to this man in marriage. Everything he owns would become hers, provided she lets everything of her’s become his.

Similarly, if we entrust to God everything we have – our time, abilities, relationships and possessions – he will reciprocate, embracing us with divine extravagance. We hand our depravity to Jesus, relinquishing even our fondest sin. It becomes his. That’s what killed him. In return, Jesus’ sinless perfection envelops us, (2 Corinthians 5:21) enabling us to be on intimate terms with the Holy God. The culmination of this divine exchange of holiness for depravity will be seen when all evil is finally wiped off this planet – we will be spared and no one can accuse God of injustice or favoritism. He has borne the penalty himself.

In entering this love pact, we give God the right to do whatever he likes with our assets, but the Owner of the universe makes his riches available to us. (Philippians 4:19) We trade our talents, for his omnipotence; our attempts to run our lives, for his unlimited wisdom. We give him our time on earth and he gives us eternity.

In every way we benefit from this proposal and God gets the raw end. But God is love. He wants this holy union more than we can imagine. Don’t break his heart by holding back.

The following prayer corresponds to wedding vows in which you promise to love, honor and obey the Lord, thus making him your God. In turn, the King of kings makes you worthy of spiritual fusion with him and pledges to devote himself unreservedly to you. If the following accurately describes your feelings, you can make it your prayer by reading it to God.

    Wonderful Lord,

    It hurts to admit how bad I’ve been. I have caused you grief, yet you sent your Son who gave his life and defeated death to secure my pardon. (Romans 4:25; 6:4-5; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8,14,17; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 1:3)

    You have given yourself totally for me and I long to reciprocate. I respond to your overwhelming love, by dedicating all I have to loving you. I yield to your loving protection and guidance. I surrender my sins to you, renouncing even those things that entice me. And in exchange I receive your pardon and purity and your empowerment to live a life worthy of you.

    Thank you that we have now commenced a union that not even death can break.

The Lord of heaven and earth knows your secret thoughts. (Hebrews 4:13) If you prayed the entire prayer honestly, you have entered a new spiritual realm. That’s hard to believe. Everything seems the same. But not from heaven’s perspective. The spiritual contract is sealed.

The proof lies not in your feelings (such as whether you feel guilty or happy), but in the integrity of the Holy One. He has given his word (in the Bible) that whoever turns from sin and looks to Jesus for cleansing, has a radically new destiny. (John 3:36; 6:37; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 6:11-18; Philippians 3:8,9; Colossians 1:22) God is no liar!

If this is the first time you have genuinely offered such a prayer, you must be bursting with questions. Unfortunately, space forbids extending this outline into something that anticipates your every question. To overcome this shortcoming, I have written a book especially for you. Please write, requesting a copy. If this proves inadequate, I invite you to put your queries directly to me in writing. Since there is nothing more important than spiritual rebirth, all letters on this vital matter will be answered, though I may not be able to give this guarantee for other correspondence.

Wind-up

You’ve had enough of empty living. At last, you are free to soar above a mundane existence to uncharted heights of excellence. You have commenced the life of fulfillment you were created for.


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