Paul writes about the magnitude of God’s glory, “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard … of all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”(2 Corinthians 2:9) C.S. Lewis likens the comparison to a ghetto child playing in a street mud puddle, having no concept of making sand castles on a clean ocean beach. We use superlative words for God like awesome, majestic, glorious, and holy, but still have little concept of the depth of what these words mean. Too often we content ourselves with the toys and trinkets of this life, not realizing that there is so much more for us in a life in harmony with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”(Matthew 6:33) He would not have said it if He didn’t mean that it was possible. We can live, at least a beginning of Kingdom life even in the midst of this broken world. The sand castles are real.
Our greatest blessing is the forgiveness Christ has purchased for us at the cross. In His shed blood we have forgiveness and new life. Because of what He did we know that anytime we sin we can turn in repentance and receive forgiveness. However, repentance means turning around, renouncing the sin, and going in the opposite direction. But it seems to me that there are some conditions of life from which we cannot turn. Some situations that we are incapable in ourselves of changing. We recognize these as blocks in our relationship, things that are not where the Lord would have us to be. I think of Jesus encounter with the rich young man in Mark 10:17-27, among others. We look at our life knowing of something that binds us from our full service to our Lord, but from which we cannot turn. It is in these that we fall on the full mercy of our Lord. It is in recognizing such things in life that make the Kyrie of our worship service our heartfelt cry. “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” These are not meaningless repetition of words. They are the cry of a life that God hears and uses to work in the deepest parts of life.
I ended yesterday by asking us to think about what it means to have life. Life is a complicated thing. The Greeks had two words for it. Bios, biological, the physical existence, and zoe, a depth, or quality, or spiritual part of life. Yesterday we were talking about the efforts to extend bios, but really that is never the central issue. It is only zoe that gives meaning and value to whatever number of years, or physical condition we have. We see a world that is searching in so many ways to find zoe, while at the same time trying to ignore the God who made this complicated being we lump under the term life. That God, the One true God of Holy Scripture, has come among us in Jesus Christ. It is He who has said “I have come that you may have zoe and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) The issue is not the threat of going to hell if you don’t believe in Jesus. The real problem is that without knowing what God has done for us in Jesus Christ we miss the zoe, the true quality of life that God, our Creator, desires for us all. “In Him is life, and that life is the light of all mankind.” (John 1:4)
The current issue of TIME magazine is all about longevity, and how science is extending life expectancy. The cover predicts that a child born today could live to be 142 years old. A quote from one of the articles says, “In less than a century, more years were added to life expectancy than all years added across all prior millennia of evolution combined.” This is another of many factors of modern life that are on an exponential curve upward, and it is not for good. No, longevity in itself is not good. Here many will perceive me as anti-science, anti-progress, or anti-whatever, but in my view it comes from unbelief in the God of Scripture. When man and woman were forced out of the Garden – yes, it was a real event – the way was barred to the Tree of Life, and for good reason. Now, we throw our intellect back in God’s face saying “you can’t stop us.” This is part of the same expression in Isaiah 9:10. (People) “who say with pride and arrogance of heart, ‘The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.'” There is far more here than can be expressed in a brief paragraph. Give it some thought, especially what it means to have life.
As long as we are alive we struggle with sin and temptation. We can all identify with Paul’s struggle with his sinful nature – “for what I do is not the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do.” (Romans7:19) And Peter said that “Satan prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter5:8) We all have choices to make, and many times we make those choices in ways that displease God. We can’t excuse it as “not so bad,” or “everyone does it,” or “it’s not my fault.” We made the choice, and we sinned. If we are serious about trying to live in a way that honors our Lord, we cry out with Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” But then we realize the truth of the very next statement he makes, “thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vss.24-25) No, we can’t excuse ourselves, but we can throw ourselves on the mercy of Christ, who forgives and restores. That is the great truth we see throughout this Lenten Season.
Does anyone know who Zephaniah is? Some will, many won’t. He is one of the so called Minor Prophets, accounting for just three chapters near the end of the Old Testament. Zephaniah is rather obscure. Not the book you turn to first in reading the Bible. Yet, his message is important. He had to declare God’s judgment on sin, but he also brought a great message of hope for God’s restoration. His obscurity doesn’t lessen the importance of God’s truth spoken through him. Most of us are obscure in the grand scheme of things. But we, too, have a message of both judgment and hope to proclaim to the world around us. Judgment, by simply seeking to live by the values of our Lord, and hope in our knowledge of the Saviour who made atonement for all sins. Let us, obscure people, continue to proclaim God’s great message.
There are issues about people being open minded or close minded; willing to listen to other positions, or refusing to hear any other. Some Christians are accused of being closed minded fundamentalists condemning others, and there certainly are these, unfortunately. But the question is not how staunchly one holds to a position, but how he seeks to share that position. For Christians, the divinity of Christ, and salvation by faith in Him are central. These truths cannot be given up, and are worth dying for. But how we share them is of prime importance. They are first shared by a life that is lived in sacrificial service. It is only the love of Christ through us that will draw others to Him. It is being open to others, and allowing them to see that we care, that will show them there is something better in Jesus. Christianity is a faith worth dying for, but more importantly it is a faith worth living to the fullest.