The God-Practice of heart change seen in reverse

God sure doesn’t go about changing the heart’s of people the way I would! If I were capable of such a God-activity as monitoring and manipulating the seats of personalities, I believe I would be looking to accomplish a lot less than what He sets out to do with you and me.

Rather than aiming at setting up a relationship between us and allowing our hearts and wills to collide, I think I would keep my distance and busy myself prescribing various avenues of cure — avenues that I would not have to go down myself.

As for methods of affecting the transformation needed by my patients, I would most definitely be seeking out the most uncomplicated and unharmful — for me that is! Two of my favorite “care” options would have little to do with me exercising care — you can be assured.

So far I have come up with two very simple processes I would like to call the zap technique and the extention technique. The patient would be given some measure of choice in the matter, but my recommendation would ultimately decide their fate.

According to the zap technique is designed to treat extremes found on the sin spectrum. A particularly good or abhorably bad would be speedily be transformed into the absolute in divinely inspired perfection with the press of a button.

Then for the more centrally located populace, I would get the exercise out of my heart-alteration practice by constantly hounding the illegitimately holy for all their missteps and then roughly making the corrections in their person as needed.

No one would voluntarily come to me, I can be sure; but I would not voluntarily help them either. My patience would be thin as a strand of floss and love for the sinner at my mercy would be non-existent.

Now, I say all these things because I am amazed that God is not just so with me. By all accounts of my sin, even with His forgiveness, His response to me should leave little room for error. Yet, God is not as like me as I would like to think He is. He loved me when I was just a figment of His perfect imagination, and so He created me and gave life to my little body.

In the full exercise of good plans He gave birth to my God-reflecting image and intelligence. And to this He added freedom that I might be crippled as something like a toy or a tool that can not move or speak on its own. He loved me down to the faculties that gave me expression — whether that should be good or evil.

Therefore when He goes to change me, it is not to start over or to set limits on what I can now be, but to open wide those avenues that I have closed with my willingness to turn away from Him. Now He walks in and takes my hand, saying, “Child, come with Me. I am going to show you what it means to be a boy/girl who does only the best of what she is capable of.”

A Classic Character with A Climactic Claims

There is something about classic things — they just don’t die. No matter how old they are in our time, they never cease to be alive and authoritative to us. Their value is in their ability to portrey a moving portrait of the longings and behaviors of mankind. They affect how we see ourselves and what we believe to be true of the world around us — whether it is a novel, poetry, history, law or a futurist outline.

Perhaps a little surprising is that the Word of God is all these things. And yet it has a greater claim on our lives than any other classic held up against it. It has been written for one purpose and that is to reveal the Word (Christ) that came into the world to save men from the deceit of their character.

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with what the Bible says. I can sit there with you and profess that it is a beautiful book that certainly has a perfect right to its particular status, but beneath what I say there is more that I don’t say.

I like the Bible, but I don’t want it to be right so long as it is discussing me. (I will admit that is highly convenient when I find a place where it slams an individual that I deem is worthy of it, but when I am its subject that is not the kind of treatment I want to get.)

I crave honor and exaltation and I believe that the Bible, of all things, ought to give it to me. You can tell me that I am a sinner and that I need saving — yes, even forgiveness — but don’t force me to accept all the features of this reality that I was once too dishonest to see.

I don’t care for the fact that every discussion of sin and wrong-doing that I find in Scripture is in some way a disortation on me and why I need Christ’s righteousness to stand in for my lack thereof. And the more I grow in god-like-ness — the more I reflect the beauty of God’s original design for me — the less I have a legitimate case for boasting in what I have done to make myself good.

Yet, all these problems show one glaring misconception of the text’s overall theme: Those beautiful words that begin Genesis and carry through the entire story of mankind and beyond, “In the beginning God…” In reading this I must ask myself, Where was I? Clearly this story contains me — missing nothing of who I am or what I was meant to be — but does not rely on me or revolve around me.

This is a problem if I live as though those things are the case: I risk never knowing who I truly am because I have missed the point of the tale into which I was so lately born. I must ask another question of myself at this point: “Do I truly love the Word (book) or its object the Word (the Person of Christ) if I live vigorously opposed to everything He speaks, everything He stands for, all that He is?”

Who is Jesus Christ anyway?

So Jesus is our Savior, but where does His power and authority to save us come from?

His power — yes the one thing in His personal profile that puts Him above every other holy man the world over — is in the fact that He is God’s choice; God’s specific means of saving us.

God looked on us in our sin and saw it as so definitive of our identity and nature that only He could do anything to save us from being who we are. He would send His only Son to work out in our midst the Father’s plan of salvation for us.

But, what did it mean for Him to be the Son of God? How is He different from us who also have the privilege of being called God’s children when we are reconciled to Father God through His Firstborn?

Well, for one thing, Jesus’ coming into the world was marked by the birth of a virgin. Mary carried the Savior of the world in her womb because the Holy Spirit (God) had enabled the physical conception of He who would be God in human form.

From the very beginning of Christ’s life on earth He was strikingly different than any man on earth. Yes, He was similar in visible form to His earthly companions, and yet there was so much of His composition that would not make sense to them unless they believed that He was at once the Son of God and God Himself.

This may sound like a peculiar thesis, but it is on this that the whole of Christianity hinges. Unless Jesus could be God and human simultaneously, He could not reconcile the two. These parties have been astranged because man’s sin can not be deleated and God’s glory cannot be compromised. If God accepted us on our own merits — with our sin — He would need to change His commands and become like we are in character to fellowship with us. This transformation would have done nothing good for either of us; after all, the predicament was not due to the fact God is not good, but that He is and we are in conflict with Him because we are evil.

Therefore, God had to do what would not alter His decree, but deliver us from the harshness of its punishment. The only way for us to be excused from serving our sentance was for it to be served by One who could give perfect righteousness to us in exchange for paying for us a debt He did not owe.

None would do that — none could do that — but Christ. Only He could boast the credentials necessary for a salvation proposition worthy of God’s divine consent. He was holy — it radiated from His whole identity: He glorified God in everything He did; He kept the law in every way, even when it came to the executing the Creator’s intent in His motivations; He knew God and had unbroken fellowship with Him; and He had power over the hearts of man — to declare to them the truth, convict them of their sin and save them from the penalty they deserved by offering divine forgiveness. Yet even in all these things that He did, He did not work to bring glory to Himself; He was faithful to His mission and the temporary limitations that it brought upon the revelation and exercise of His glory and majesty.

Though He was with God when He formed the earth and the world (as it says in John 1:1), He is also the reason all these things were formed. In Christ resides all the essence of God though He for His particular responsibility took on the fullness of mankind’s essence.

The second thing that distinguishes Christ in the eyes of God and the world is that He was sinless throughout the time that He was wrapped in the physical. The weakness of our fleshly bodies subjected Him to every sin that we are tempted and taken in by, but He was greater than the trap. Our mortal limitations were not His whole; He wrestled with sin because He was not under its power and it could have no claim over Him.

This sinless identity and legacy left no room for a barrier to exist between God the Father. In all things He was obedient; The Word (as He is called in John 1) was able to communicate God’s plea for faith to arrise within His people that they might accept His sacrifice on their behalf.

First we were sinners guilty of cursing God and incurring His just wrath, but how much more are we worthy of death if we should bear the guilt of an Innocent’s death rather than claiming it as our only hope before God?

If Christ is not the only thing that we have, then He is the condemnation against us in everything else we have. If I would offer an aliby it would discredit me in the eyes of the Judge; the only plea He will hear is Christ.

More clearly than anything else, Christ reveals the boundaries of God and man, but He also reveals what was the mystery of where they are meant to intersect.

God the Father, our Redeemer Christ, and the guilt of our consciences form the three-fold witness against each of us for our crimes. There is no reason that we should be released from death row except that One who knows our sins would bear them to the grave — putting all their power against us to death under Him.

Christ cannot be dismissed as a false witness on the part of His testimony of our sin. When He was tried to prove the legitimacy of what He testified, He told our end because of what we have done and announced that He would not let us go there without giving us access to His full pardon — a pardon He would offer at the cost of His own life. (God would know death for us so we could freely enjoy His eternal life).

Things were great, and then it bit me!

Have you ever heard someone comment after another has experienced some measure of success, “Well, he/she sure got a big head!” Or maybe the sentiment was voiced in a cautionary tone: “Now watch that all this doesn’t go to your head!” In these two examples it is evident that pride can be a fearfully unattractive quality. Yet, there is another assumption here that I would like to deal with here: Pride is something that springs up, suddenly becoming a temptation for us when blessing and prosperity come our way its tag-alongs — praise, prestige and power.

Though prosperity certainly does present a threat to our souls, it is more like a gift that must be handled with the utmost care. A great portion of our knowledge of how to handle blessing must be learned in the midst of it — much the same as the instruction we receive in trials.

We should not be afraid of prosperity; if it reveals our pride, it has done its job. This is not to say that pride’s exposure is its only purpose for being a part of our lives — it is a blessing to us in so many other ways. It showcases such things as the Father’s love, His generosity, His faithfulness, His boundless imagination and His kindness. But to the degree that it reveals sin that has long since lingered in our hearts, it makes the unceasing mercies of our Lord more precious and more astonishing.

We realize that God is not out to punish us for our sin, but to uncover it that we may freely repent and be cleansed of it. Eagerness to find our sin and destroy our dignity was never God’s method. He cannot ignore our sin because everything we do wrong is against Him. He is seeking to reconcile us when He opens our eyes to what He sees that we might not demand from Him His holy discipline.

So when we see our sin we should not fail to see His mercy there too. Not that we should make light of us in our sin, but that we should make much of Him in His holiness. I know that it is a mistake that I have made too many times: I have tried to create an artificial sobriety over my sin by meditating on it. I didn’t realize that only Christ could make my heart both eager for holiness that begins with Him and appropriately sorrowful for sin that dismisses Him altogether.

But recently I have come to the realization that my sinful response can make bad come of anything. But the problem is with me and not with the undeserved gifts that I enjoy from the hand of God. Nothing is bad for me but serves to reveal the corruption in me that I should be constantly aware that is at the mercy of God that I stand and not in the endurance or plenty of what surrounds me.