Friday, May 19, 2017

A Different God ...

Atheists make a point; if there is a God, why does He let “you” suffer?  And Christians set about the task of apologizing on behalf of Jesus.  Mind you, there is truth in the notion that in order for free will to be free, it must permit the choice of that which is bad for us, it must permit the choice of sin.  And sin brings with it pain and death from cause and effect.  It is also true that in a world that recognizes the existence of God, we must equally recognize the existence of His enemy Satan, who has no compunction over causing pain and death to as many as he can.  Stacking up the impacts of our own bad choices, compounded with others, and increased by the deceiver of souls; quite a bit of damage ensues.  Imagine greed unrestricted for a moment, or lust, or anger.  Were there not some level of restriction held back by the four angels of the four winds we might have completely self-destructed long ago.  So even our continued existence is possible only because our God must interfere within limits or witness His creation commit suicide on mass.
But the nature of the Atheist’s challenge is more personal than why does pain exist at all, it is why does it exist for “you”; for someone who claims belief in Jesus Christ.  The challenge is simply why does God who must at least at some level interfere to preserve you, not do a better job at it?  Why does He not answer the most desperate prayers, or prevent the most heinous tragedies from happening at all?  When asked this, most Christians punt.  The most common refrain is, it is a mystery, that only faith can overcome, and trust that whatever happens is in our best interest permitted by a God who we know loves us with a passion we may never understand.  But that answer still leaves the victim a victim.  Rape victims will still have been raped.  Abuse victims still abused.  The dead still killed by others, or by the cause and effect of their own choices.  Our modern faith seems poised to deal with the aftermath, but seems to have a problem dealing with prevention through consistent direct divine intervention.
Now most Christians have a story or two about some point in their lives where divine intervention was done on their behalf.  God keeps us out of the car accident, or keeps our health going when the normal course of events should have taken us out of planet earth.  So the modern Christian, despite not having a comprehensive answer, has at least a partial one.  Our God has been preserving us.  Without Him, we would have been dead already, or in far worse shape than we find ourselves today.  And some modern Christians hold out hope to be favored by the God of Job; who while He permits calamity to occur, He restores our lives after the damage to a much greater point than before the damage began.  But Job’s first set of children were still dead.  Having a new baby is awesome.  But it does not replace the hole in your heart of losing even one of your children, let alone all of them.
Some modern Christians just write off anything that happens in this world as meaning “less”.  From the point of view of eternity, of life without the pain of sin and the death it brings, nothing that happens in this world can ever deter from the infinite bliss of perfection we will come to live in the hereafter.  This perspective is perhaps the most healthy, as it keeps the eye and the priority on what is really important, and what is not.  It also has the side effect of recognizing we need an end to the sin inside of us, to experience and enjoy what an eternity of perfection has waiting for us in the plain of existence God had in mind originally, and is restoring us to.  But even this perspective is lacking something.  It presumes that God will “do a better job” preserving us, only when conditions are finally favorable.  Why does He not do it today, is another question.  And ultimately it is a question where “we” question just what kind of God He is.  It would appear modern Christianity has lapsed into the service of a different God.  Why, and how, spring to mind.
Matthew records for us, in his gospel intended for a Jewish audience, a picture of what sure looks like a different God than the one we have come to apologize for.  The Jesus Christ who walked the sands of Israel so long ago sure presents as something completely different than the Jesus Christ we struggle to make excuses for today.  And if Jesus has not, or will not, ever change.  Then perhaps it is us who have shifted while the rock remained right where it has been all along.  Take as an example the story of the immediate aftermath of the Sermon on the Mount in chapter eight of Matthews gospel.  What Jesus had done was simply preach a sermon.  There were many truths within it, most centered on Salvation, and how following Jesus, submitting to Him, sees that occur within us.  There were no quid pro quo sections in His sermon.  There were no fantastic promises of wealth offered there, or of control, or of fame.  In fact, the antidote of these things are found buried in His words.  What He values is not based in wealth, but in service, not in control, but in submission, not in fame, but in humility.  His entire value system is upside down from our perspective.  But what was the response to it?
Matthew opens chapter eight in verse 1 saying … “When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.”  The people got it.  Rape victims, abuse victims, those victimized by a church whose leadership abused their control, got it.  Salvation was possible through Jesus Christ and honestly that was all that mattered.  They saw a different God than us.  They were certain about a different God than we appear to be.  They began to show it, revealing Him to us, and revealing what we truly believe to ourselves.  Matthew continues in verse 2 saying … “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”  Aids victim, stage four cancer victim, multiple gun shot victim, pick the terminal condition you equate to the most today, and the ancient equivalent was leprosy.  Highly contagious and not well understood, meant complete social ostracization.  No one wanted you around.  You were going to die.  Any remedy had long been forgotten.  You were dirt.  You were less than dirt.
And at least one of them, comes straight up to Jesus after hearing His sermon from afar, and says to Him Lord, “if thou wilt”.  There will be no medication needed, no team of doctors or nurses required.  The man or woman destined to die will come to the Lord of renewal, and state a fact.  This victim knows what Jesus can do.  Jesus need only will it.  No apologies.  No deterrence of faith.  And what happens next separates the God of that man (or woman) from the God of you or I.  Jesus responds in verse 3 saying … “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”  There was zero delay in His answer.  There was zero equivocation in His answer.  There was zero pre-conditions that had to be met in His answer.  The dead, or destined to be dead, was to be restored in that instant. 
Further, Jesus was not some cold, removed, uncaring person afraid to interact with what you and I are too afraid to love.  Jesus touches Him (or substitute her as many women had leprosy as well).  I imagine Jesus reaching right out to the most infected part of the victim He could easily see, and began the healing right from there.  I imagine seeing not just a cessation of the disease, or stopping its progression, and leaving the scars and missing sections that had already rotted and fallen off.  I imagine Jesus begins re-creating the victim, replacing every missing part with a new one created from the fingertips of the Creator.  I imagine seeing the scars and blemishes fade into the normality of perfection at the time.  Full restoration.  Full recreation.  A point not too subtle for us to see where it comes to our salvation, and the need we have to be re-created from the inside out.
But this must be a different God, than the one modern Christians claim to serve.  There was no delay in what the will of Jesus was.  There was no pondering about it.  It did not take a committee to decide what to do.  It took a man seeing his own need and reaching out to one He knew not only could do it, but would do it.  And Jesus did what Jesus wanted to do for him, and longs to do for each of us.  Jesus then does something that continues to be relevant to us picking up in verse 4 saying … “And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”  The way of healing leprosy had been long forgotten by those who ran the church.  They had been given a method of healing it.  But they forgot it, or abandoned it, or perhaps just like modern Christians, began to doubt what their God wanted done in a situation like that.
The leadership of the Jewish faith in the time of Christ served the same God we modern Christians do.  A God whose will is ever in doubt, or cannot be explained.  A God who does not “do” anything, or does not “do” enough.  A different God.  Certainly a different God than Jesus Christ who did not hesitate a single minute healing the man in need right in front of Him.  That God, that Jesus Christ, did not seem to leave us in doubt as to what He will was.  He was asked.  He healed.  End of story.  No doubts.  No difficulty in explanation, but rather extreme clarity.  Jesus does NOT want us to suffer and die.  Jesus came to reverse those conditions within us.  Jesus is NOT only interested in our spiritual condition (though that is the more important one), He is also equally interested in our physical condition.  He restores us, both body and soul.  This is the work Jesus longs to do.  This is that God.  This would by all accounts appear to be someone different than the God we have evolved in our minds is supposed to be Him.  In asking this man to return to the leadership of the church to be a testimony unto them, He is also asking this man to be a testimony unto us.
The rock does not move, only the sands of self do that.  It is not our Jesus who has changed, or wants something different for us than He did for that victim of leprosy.  He wants ALL of His children restored to Him in perfection, not just in mind, or spirituality, but in the bodies He created us to have.  The rock is still there.  It is us who need to return to it.  To conjure a different image of the God we serve, one absent of doubt, and apology.  An image of Jesus as He truly was, not an image of Jesus today masked behind a cloak of invisibility and doubt of intentions.  His intentions have not changed, only our faith in them.  His abilities to restore have not changed, only our perception of our need.  We no longer ask, either with certainty in what He would will, or with faith that an answer will actually be provided.  We ask with doubt, and with coverage in case what we want is rejected with no.  We offer the excuse of “not yet” to our feeble prayers.  But Jesus did not tell the Leper, I will get back to you.  He just healed the victim who needed the healing right in the moment he asked.
If the health of the body of those who are Christians is in disarray today, the responsibility clearly lies on our own doorstep.  The guidance in His word about what is good and what is not for us to eat is clearly outlined.  We know what we need to do from an exercise, sleep, rest and dietary standpoint.  And when disease comes to us in spite of what directions we follow from the word, we have a God whose will it is to heal us immediately, fully, restoratively and on the spot of our question for it.  That is His will.  That is His will for you, for me, and for the entirety of mankind from Adam to us.  Not just for the good people, but for all of them.  Not just for the folks who understand doctrine perfectly, but for those who are mistaken about nearly everything.  The leper did not have doctrinal perfection, he had a singular belief in the “will” of Jesus Christ.  That is the will of that Jesus Christ who scripture bares witness to.  Who is the Jesus Christ you serve?  Is it the same guy? 
Do you serve that God, or have the shifting sands of your perceptions invented a new version of Jesus Christ, a much lesser version, a version we feel the need to apologize for when the tough questions are posed, because the physical proof seems lacking all the time.  Have we, like our Pharisee forefathers, found a different God; or are we ready to serve the Jesus Christ who even today stands right in front of us as He ever was, His will clear to restore what is broken within us, both body and soul.  Are we ready to ask Him now, seeing our need, and “knowing” His will?  Are we prepared for the yes, we have so long believed was only rarely granted, but now will be our regularity?  I am tired of the different God, I have constructed in my mind, I would rather return to the Rock who has not moved, and the certainty in what He wills.  Is anyone else ready as well?

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