Tom with kids in Kuwait

Tom with kids in Kuwait
Tom with kids in Kuwait

Friday, May 9, 2014

Living in the tension of being made holy and falling short again and again

Peter it seems is once again ahead of his time.  What is his message about?

We see ads about it all the time.
We tell our kids and even our parents not to do it.
We occasionally do it ourselves, though we don’t want to admit it.
Most of the time we seem to get away with it.
We know others who didn’t get away with it.
Sometimes it costs lives.
We do it knowing we shouldn’t but since we have gotten away with it so far, we will keep on doing it for just a little longer.
Sometimes, you just have to, right?


Text and drive.

Surely this was what Peter was talking about.
You hit a few strokes on the Smartphone with that reply that just won’t wait, or even with one that will and the next thing you know you are in the oncoming traffic lane.

You find yourself behind some yahoo on the interstate that appears to be drunk.  The car ahead of you speeds up and slows down, drifts left and then back right and then speeds back up to the speed limit or 8 miles over the limit—the speed at which all grace-abiding Christians drive—and then it’s back to drifting left.

Finally, you have an opportunity to pass this obviously impaired driver as he or she has drifted onto the shoulder of the road.  You give it some gas to pass, glancing to your right to see what sort of knucklehead would be driving drunk at the same time of day you needed to use the road, and the two of you make eye contact.  You acknowledge the other driver with a smile and a head nod when you see that he was only texting.

How pathetic.  You can’t believe some people.  At least that’s what the text to all your besties reads as you swerve all over the road sending it.

It is just hard to stay the course some times.

I know that everything time my wife lifts here drink to her lips when we are traveling together, my truck becomes rebellious and swerves at the very moment the cup reaches her lips.

It is hard to stay on the straight and narrow.

I have coordinated several orienteering and land navigation competitions over the years.  When I coach teams, I often tell them not to go on a direct heading.  I tell them to set a course either left of right of the target area until they reach some sort of limiting feature, and then compensate.

Sometimes the team can run just left of the designated azimuth, until they hit the road or power lines or ridge, and then turn right and carefully navigate a short distance to a terrain feature that puts them close to the target.

Dead reckoning—just staying on a given azimuth for a set distance—is difficult.  It is downright tough.

The illustration of the day for Peter and for Jesus and for centuries before them was the shepherd and the sheep.

You could herd sheep.  You could corral sheep.  You could find good pasture for them and they might just settle in and give the shepherd a little rest, as they rested beside still waters in green pastures.

Of course, we need consider the lost sheep.  It seems like there is always one.  Somebody didn’t get the memo.  Someone has to do their own thing.

Somebody is always going astray.

It is just difficult to stay the course all the time.
We drift.
We go astray.
We lose our way.
There is always one guy who can’t get with the program.
There is always one.
But Peter is not rehashing Luke’s 15th chapter, he is telling us that we were all lost, scattered, and gone astray.

It is not the 1 in 100 that Peter talks about but the 100 in 100 that have been adrift in this life before they came to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

For none of us can hold the course of righteousness on our own.
Some try.
Some try and give up.
Some don’t try much at all.
All fall into the same category as far as righteousness goes.  You can’t get there from here.

Your path to righteousness must go through Christ Jesus.

Peter reminds us that Jesus bore the sin of all humankind upon his human flesh.  He had no sin of his own, but he took ours to the cross.

And so once again, Peter reminds those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, that that they are a chosen people.  Now Peter was one of God’s Chosen People for surely he was a Jew—a Hebrew—among the many of the region of Judea and Galilee that would look to Abraham as their father.

But Peter is talking about a people who once were not a people but now were a people—a holy nation, a nation of priests, those who lived outside of God’s mercy that now lived very much in his favor.
Peter is talking to more than those in Asia Minor.  He is talking to us, and once again he visits this idea that we are strangers in this world. 

He urges us to resist the sinful callings of this world because we are aliens here.  We are strangers.

He tells us, don’t blend in:  Stand out!  Let people see the good lives that you are living so those who neither seek nor honor God are going to be taken back.  By our good lives—not flawless or fault free lives, but good lives—those around us will know God’s glory when he appears.

They will know it because they have seen it in us.

But if we keep making mistakes and it seems that we keep falling short, how will people know God in our lives?

We are called to live holy lives but it seems that even with the help of the Spirit, we still give in to that weakness of the flesh.

What will people see in us?
By his wounds we are healed.
By his stripes we are healed.
They will see healing.

They will see that we no longer crave the things of this world.

They will see us time and time again return to the one who heals us with thanksgiving, confession, and even with some petitions; but we know where our healing comes from, and we return to him time and time again.

We acknowledge him.  By his stripes we are healed.

If you break your arm and go to the doctor, you don’t ask the doctor to turn back time and not let you break your arm.  Doctors can barely keep up with patient loads, new breakthroughs in medicine, and this year’s regulations.  Surely they have no time to learn how to operate a time machine.

You can order a time machine off of or EBay, but they are only have one setting—forward.

Doctors are concerned with healing.

The Great Physician that we know is not going to reset the clock for us.  He has healed us.

We have fallen short.  We have gone astray.  We have missed the mark.  Those things do not change.

God doesn’t say, “That’s OK.”
He says, “That’s not OK but you are forgiven.  By the wounds heaped upon Jesus, you are healed.”

Despite instruction from Peter, Paul, James and others to live holy lives, lives set apart for God, lives given as a living sacrifice; we somehow struggle with getting our behavior in line.

We are told to submit not only to God but the authorities that exist in this world; however, our rebellious nature comes out time and time again.

We are God’s people but we keeping going astrary.  It seems that we are no different than anyone else in the world.

Except that we know where to come home to.
We have a Shepherd who will bring us home.
We belong to a flock with a Shepherd who not only would die for us but did die for us.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  He finds us when we are scattered, have gone astray, or have just gotten off course.

We live in the tension of being told to live good lives so even the unbelieving world will have provocation to believe and falling short of God’s glory time and time again.

We live in the tension of being told to do good deeds so that they might bring glory to God and missing the mark time and time again.

We live in the tension of being told to be overcomers and to put our talents to use and being called by a Lord who tells all who are burdened and weary to come to him and he will give us rest.

We live in the tension of going astray and coming home.

Sometimes we seem to be pulled apart.

How can we be a holy people?  How can we be God’s people?
How can he not condemn us when we have fallen short time and time again after we were given a second chance by Jesus?

We need to understand something of the authority of the scriptures.  Let us believe what they say.

We were not a people but now we are.  We are not only a people but a holy people whose home is not in this world.  We are strangers here. 

We were all scattered but now we have returned to the shepherd.

We were all sick but now we are healed.  By his stripes we are healed!

That is sometimes difficult for us to believe because we measure our healing by the standards of the world.

If you believe that God created the heaven and the earth, then believe that you are his people.

If you believe that Moses parted the Red Sea, then believe that you have returned to the shepherd.

If you believe that Jesus died for your sins then believe that Jesus died for your sins and by his stripes you are healed.

Sometimes it seems easier to believe what happened a few thousand years ago than the fact that we are God’s people, he has gathered us together as his own, and that by his very wounds we are healed.

We are healed!

But I don’t feel like I’m 20 or 30 years old again.
You are not 20 or 30 or 40 or maybe even 50 years old again.  Healing does not involve a time machine.  It is not a fountain of youth.

It is new life in Christ.

We live with some tension in our lives because we are looking for worldly answers to daily problems. 

We live like we are avionic components instead of children of God.
The modern jet airliner makes numerous course corrections every minute, perhaps every second.  It is always self correcting.  Wind pushes the aircraft a little or a lot and the computer adjusts.  Air density changes and the computer adjusts.  The pilot turns the plane manually and the computer adjusts to his input then adjusts to the new wind direction and other factors.

The computer does things that would drive Pavlov’s dog crazy.  Stimulus-response, stimulus-response, stimulus-response, again and again and again in just a few seconds.

Maybe, it is more than we can handle as well.  If we are trying to play by all of the rules all of the time, we break down.  We malfunction.  We find ourselves constantly off course and trying to figure out what to do.  How do we fix ourselves?

We live with some tension in our lives because we are looking for worldly answers to daily problems. 

The answer is Jesus.

Let’s frame it this way.  We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Does anyone contest this point?

We are set apart—made holy if you will—to serve God.  This is by far the tougher end of the framing. 

So how do people who fall short—go astray—live as holy people?
And the top answer is:  We try harder.  We pray harder.  We work harder.  We work smarter. We use all the techniques of the world to live as holy people.

And still there is tension and we miss the mark.

What if we just accept the fact that we fall short?
Most would say, that’s pretty close to where I am in my thinking most of the time.

What if we just accept the fact that we fall short but have a way to live as God’s own people?
Most would say, that’s where I am having tension.

What if we just accept the fact that we fall short—go astray—but have been given a very direct and achievable path to live as God’s people?
Most would say, didn’t we cover that already?  That’s the tension that I live within.

But what if there were a way to truly be God’s people even in the midst of our flawed lives?

What if there were a way to be set apart from the unbelieving world even though our conduct is sometimes a little off the mark?

Please, Jesus, give us something that lets us live as your holy people.

We are broken, flawed, wandering from the flock but we want a way to be your holy people.  We believe in Jesus.  We believe that he is the Son of God and that he died for our sins and that God raised him from the dead.  We believe what we know we are called to believe, but sometimes it seems that our lives are the same.

Please, Jesus, give us something that lets us live as your holy people.

Give us something that shows the world that we are your people.
Let’s venture briefly into John’s gospel.  Jesus has gathered his followers only hours before his death.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

We would love for our behavior and conduct to be exemplary.
We would love for people to paste our picture next to the word flawless in their dictionaries, and I am sure that that is a pretty easy thing to do in our digital world.

We would love for people to say, “He is batting a thousand.  She never misses.”

We should desire to set fantastic examples of behavior, conduct, achievement, and so much more that could be evaluated by the world’s metrics.

We are commanded to love one another.

Jesus said, here’s a metric for you.  Love one another as much as you have seen me love you.  By this people—even the people who are not seeking God or worshiping God or living holy lives by following the rules—these people will see that you follow me.

This is how we are set apart.
This is what makes us a people—God’s people.
This is what makes us holy.

No matter how many scuffs and bruises we have from falling down, tripping, or getting banged up going down the wrong path, we are healed.

We come home.
The Shepherd will not lose a single one of us.
We were all going astray—we were all texting and driving—but we have come home.

The Shepherd knows his sheep and that includes all of our fears and failures.

But by his wounds we are healed.

So many Christians claim their identity as being a sinner saved by grace.  

I challenge you to consider that to be a part of your journey, an incredible part of your journey, but not the core of your identity.

You are a child of God.
You are loved.
You went astray but you were rescued and redeemed.
You were worth being rescued. You are God's child and worth being redeemed--worth being healed.

You are as good as new, but you know God’s love so much more now that you have been rescued.  You were worth being rescued and your value has not gone down any.

You are healed! 
It’s not that you went through life without a scratch, but you went through life with many scratches and breaks and pain and yes even some suffering for following Jesus, but you are healed.

It is not that nothing painful ever happened to you but that it did, and you were healed.

By his wounds, you are healed.
Believe the scriptures.
By his wounds, you are healed.
You are healed!


No comments:

Post a Comment