Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Obedience Is Never Easy For The Rebellious Heart

Most of us want to know there is a purpose and perhaps a plan for our lives. Possessing such knowledge or hope gives us a sense of security and peace. None of us want to live with the thought that we are here by chance, by some freak accident, with no purpose other than to eat, breathe, live and then die. I think each of us has some desire to leave our mark on this place, perhaps to make it a little more pleasant for others to live. Yet, even with such a desire, we want that purpose to be something we want and not what someone else wants. We want to be the captains of our own destinies, to plot our own course and to arrive at some place of remarkable achievement. However, we can't have it both ways. Either we have a purpose or we are plotting our own course.

Many people waste their lives trying to figure out God's specific will for them. They sit and watch life pass them by, waiting to hear a voice or see a pointing finger in the sky. Personally I do not think it works that way. My own calling came first as a nagging realization of the direction God was pointing me in and I immediately coiled against the notion. This would prove to be my recurring reaction to God's expressed will for me. He shows me; I reject the direction; he insists; I protest; he gives me a clear fork in the road to make a choice; I repent and submit. But these moments only occur along the pathway. I never stop moving but always press on. I was once told that if I did not know the direction to go I should continue straight on until I received the instruction to turn one way or the other. Sometimes the instruction is as simple as "serve me where you are; love people in my name". He may move me around from "pillar to post" but the instruction where I am is always the same, "love them in my name".

The big problem with living God's will for our lives is that our will has to die. Perhaps there may be a protest in us at first, just as there was in Jesus' parable of the obedient son. We may say no at first but at the end of the day a loving son submits to his Father's will. There must be a willingness to say, "not my will but yours be done". However, the rebellious son can sometimes have the appearance of obedience but when the sun sets, his rebellion is obvious. We can even sometimes fool ourselves into thinking we are obedient but our rebellion is gross and obvious to God. King Herod is an example of this rebellion.

The Magi have come in search of the great king who had been born according to prophecy. The signs had all come together and they had come to pay homage. King Herod consulted his own wise men and was informed of the prophecies. This is a clear indication of God's will, of what was to come. However, the king enjoyed his job, his position, his power, and he had no plan to give it up, even to God. The king was suppose to be God's representative to the people but Herod probably never stepped into his purpose. He had the position but he failed to walk in his purpose. Not claiming this purpose, Herod was only interested in preserving his position and power. He actually thought he could plot against God. What a foolish man, but no more foolish than we are at times in our lives. Something seemed to be lacking in his Jewish instruction as it seems to be lacking in our Christian instruction. Do we not realize who our God is?

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:11-12)

If our rebellion only affected us perhaps we could have the attitude that it is up to us, but rebellion and sin rarely affect only the perpetrator. When we rebel against God, when we willingly enter into sin, it affects everyone we know and who we encounter. Herod's rebellion had an immediate and historical impact. In an attempt to foil God's will Herod went about as far as a person can go:

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. (Matthew 2:16)

The significant thing here is that Herod did not derail God's plans or will and actually played a role in fulfilling some of the prophecies, but it did not have to be like that. Herod could have played a great role in God's will and he could have lived up to his purpose in his will. The frightening thing is that this is the usual pattern of rebellion against God. It is always a messy affair, with many people hurt or killed (emotionally, physically) in the whole affair. Nothing we do can frustrate the will of our Father. Regardless of our actions God will see his plans through to the end. Is it not wiser to join our Father in his work, to submit to his will, to be part of his great work then to come to our end in rebellion and all it entails? In Isaiah we find this warning:

Woe to the obstinate children,"
       declares the LORD,
       "to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
       forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
       heaping sin upon sin.
(Isaiah 30:1)

He describes the rebellious with these words:

These are rebellious people, deceitful children,
       children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction.

 They say to the seers,
       "See no more visions!"
       and to the prophets,
       "Give us no more visions of what is right!
       Tell us pleasant things,
       prophesy illusions.

 Leave this way,
       get off this path,
       and stop confronting us
       with the Holy One of Israel!"
(Isaiah 30:9-11)

And he reminds us:

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
       "In repentance and rest is your salvation,
       in quietness and trust is your strength.
(Isaiah 30:15)

Jesus taught us that the only way we could follow him is if we die to ourselves. Some have said the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the alter. We have to give up everything that belongs to us in order to be able to live a servant's life, submitted to the Father's will. It does not matter what we want when we are called upon to change our course according to the Father's will. It may not even be a change of course but simply the completion of purpose as it was for Jesus. We think that his prayer was simple until we are in that same place of giving up what we possess in order to possess what the Father has intended for us. Then the simple prayer of "not my will but yours be done" comes at the cost of sweating great drops of blood. It is sometimes a wrestling and arguing before we arrive at the point of submission. Regardless of how we get there, we must all arrive at that place of submitting to the Father's will. Perhaps it is the hardest thing you have ever had to do and perhaps many will come against your decision or action. It does not matter, just do it and receive the joy and peace of knowing you are walking in step with the Spirit of God.

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