Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Am A Man Of Unclean Lips Or Is That Unclean Heart?

There are a few striking balances that need to be maintained in our walk with Jesus Christ. It is a strange relationship we have in this place as we learn to live according to the Spirit instead of our flesh. We have Jesus stating that "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak", highlighting our great challenge as we live to serve Jesus. It an interesting balance as we realize our intimate relationship with Jesus and yet serve him here as a servant. Now some people may jump all over this because Jesus told his disciples that they were no longer his servants but were instead his friends. Yet we have Paul talking about the bond-servant attitude. A bond servant from the old testament was a slave who gave up any right he had to be free in order to remain a slave to his master for life. So although we are friends of Jesus we also see ourselves in this relationship of service. There are other balances to be maintained as well.

There is another balance that again has to do with this relationship we have with Christ but has more to do with the Father. When we accepted Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord there was a transformation that took place and that is taking place, where we ceased to be as we were and have become a new creation. This transformation saw us become the children of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. Every promise ever issued from the mouth and will of the Father has been applied to us. We are rich beyond anything we could possibly grasp at this time. We are more powerful, because of his power, than we can dream. We have greater strength than we have ever called upon before. Our relationship is amazing but there is a balance because we are not God and we are not Jesus.

There are moments in our lives, when we have stood in the presence of God, when we have been overwhelmed by his goodness and holiness. We probably found that we could not even stand in that moment, dropping to our knees or falling to our faces. The reason is because we realized that we are nothing compared to his greatness. We are reminded of our imperfection, our ugliness, our wretchedness as we stand in his holiness. Our experience is a brokenness not unlike Isaiah's when God revealed his glory to him:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Like John the Baptist, we realize how unworthy we are of his attention let alone his love:

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26-27)

But take note of what God did for Isaiah:

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

As Isaiah humbled himself and acknowledged how short he had fallen of God's glory, God reached out and pardoned him, lifting him back to his feet. Each of us has fallen short of God's glory and you have most likely experienced those moments when you realize who you were without Jesus or even who you were in that current struggle. God's glory overwhelmed you and you found yourself weeping or driven to your knees. But God didn't leave you there, did he? He washed you in the assurance of your salvation, he lifted you up and filled you with strength according to your faith, he restored you to that position of co-heir with Christ. However, you came in humbly, you did not demand it. It was the Father who lifted you up.

That is exactly what the Word tells us. Jesus warned his disciples to maintain this attitude. He likened it to being invited to a meal. He told them to come with a humble attitude and take a lower position. This would then allow the host to lift him up to a greater position. But if they came in with such an attitude of privilege they might find themselves embarrassed as the host moved them to a lower position. Jesus taught:

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Paul also taught that we must have the same attitude of Jesus who humbled himself in obedience to the Father. He also wrote:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

I really like the wording James uses as he exhorts us to maintain this attitude:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)

Peter makes it even clearer:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

There is that image again that we saw with Isaiah, coming before God in humility and allowing him to lift us up in that relationship we have with Jesus. This is in contrast to those who would come "boldly" before God demanding from him. I am afraid they misunderstand the idea of boldness because we are told to come with boldness. The fact that we are able to enter the presence of God at all is a boldness. The people of Israel were even afraid to see the glory of God reflected in Moses' face, yet we have the privilege of walking in this glory. But we should not become arrogant in this relationship. We have only the grace of God to stand upon, and even as co-heirs with Jesus we only have this relationship due to what the Father has done for us. Yes, we are the children of promise. Yes, all the riches and power of God are available to us. Yes, we have this incredible relationship with our Father through Jesus but our Father loves to see humility in his children so he can lift us up. It is a balance.

In saying this, if you have a real relationship with Jesus this is going to be the most natural balance for you to maintain. As God overwhelms us with his glory we will naturally fall upon our faces, it will not be a false humility. As he reaches out and lifts us up, we will be glad for it and feel relieved by his mercy and grace. It is all natural when the relationship is real. We are only told these things so we can recognize when it is not real, when we are just putting it on because we do not have a real relationship with Jesus. This you should be aware of so you can take steps to correct it. Those of you with a real relationship with Jesus know what I am writing of and are glad for this balance the Spirit maintains in us as we gladly yield our entire life and attitude to him. What an amazing God we serve.

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