Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jesus Threw Away My Lists, part 2

I wrote earlier today about my love affair with lists and how it is easier for me to follow a list like the Law of Moses than it is to allow love to govern me as Jesus taught. However, Jesus has removed any need for lists in our lives because he has revealed to us the greater way of love. In saying this I do want to share with you one list that I find to be amazing.

It is something you have read before and maybe you may have even taken note of it. It is a list that I find sums up so much of what we desire to be and do in our relationship with God. It is a list that can help us with a greater intimacy with Jesus. I don't consider it a law but more the guard rails on this path of love Jesus has placed us on. It prevents us from wandering away from this life of love and dedication.

We find it in the book of wisdom, Proverbs, specifically chapter 3. The pure simplicity of this list struck me the other day and it starts with the most important part of our relationship with God:

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; 
   bind them around your neck, 
   write them on the tablet of your heart. (v. 3)

I am telling you the greatest pursuit in our life should be to discover the depth of God's love. There should be no more important desire than this, to learn how to love as Jesus loved. What does God mean by love? How does it impact our living? And as you discover these mysteries make sure you are living it, applying it to everything you say and do. The result is evident:

Then you will win favor and a good name    in the sight of God and man. (v. 4)

If you are honestly spending the quality time with God that you are suppose to be it will have a radical change in your life, how you see things, how you respond to people, the words that you speak. People may not agree with your faith but they certainly will not be able to hold anything against you when love is written on the tablet of your heart.

With love firmly fixed in place we are ready for the rest of the list. In fact the command to love makes everything else possible. Item number two:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
   and lean not on your own understanding; 
in all your ways acknowledge him, 
   and he will make your paths straight. (vv. 5-6)

This is a huge stumbling block for most people and I could devote an entire book to this subject of trust. Love leads us to trust, to letting go of what we think we know and acknowledging that God knows far more than we do. This is where we falter in our relationship with Jesus and things begin to unravel. You know what I mean. We want something but God seems to prevent it so we fight against him. We want something and God is saying no but we don't want to accept that answer. We are in a situation that only God can rescue us from but we allow fear and worry to propel us into a rash act that only makes things worse. It's easy to say we love God on the sunny days but it is in the storms that our love and trust are tested.

This naturally leads us to the third point:

Do not be wise in your own eyes;    fear the LORD and shun evil. (v. 7)

This is another big problem we have, when we think we know better than God or the godly council he has surrounded us with. We ask godly people, who we trust, for their wisdom and they give us excellent council from the Word of God but then we decide we know better. Every time this mistake leads to disaster. If we hold God's wisdom up to the highest esteem, giving him our respect and turning away from everything that is evil there is great benefit:

This will bring health to your body    and nourishment to your bones. (v.8)

Worry, fear, anxiety take years off of our life. We begin to look old fast and we become feeble quickly. Living by our wisdom instead of God's will lead us into situations that will provoke worry, fear and anxiety in us and we will not be able to see the peace Jesus has given to us. What a foolish people we are.

The next point should be a natural out pouring of our love but you would not believe how many people try to get out of this. They lie to themselves, they use their own wisdom, they try to argue the point but in the end they are only robbing themselves of a greater freedom and intimacy with Jesus:

Honor the LORD with your wealth,    with the firstfruits of all your crops; (v. 9)

It is amazing how people allow money to separate them from the Lord. It becomes their stumbling block but they are only robbing themselves. They forget who the Provider is and how we honour him in this matter of the first fruits. It is something that love provoked long before the Law of Moses was established. We can read about it with Cain and Abel and the fact that Abel gave his best and was blessed by God. It led to the first record of jealousy and murder in the history of man. When love provokes a cheerful giver there are results:

Then your barns will be filled to overflowing,    and your vats will brim over with new wine. (v. 10)

The last point in this list has to do with keeping a proper perspective in our walk with God. So often we accuse God of being mean and unfair because we are looking at it from the perspective of a comfortable life in this world. We need to understand that God's perspective is one of eternity and he is preparing us for it:

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline 
   and do not resent his rebuke, 
because the LORD disciplines those he loves, 
   as a father
 the son he delights in. (vv. 11-12)

Discipline is not punishment in the same way that correction is not punishment. I do not punish my children when they do wrong because punishment has to do with vengeance and there is no lesson and improvement in vengeance. No, our role as parents is to correct our children, to teach them from their mistakes and to reinforce that lesson so they will not forget it. God disciplines us because he loves us and he wants to make sure we will be prepared for eternity. So instead of weeping, wailing and complaining, look around and see the lesson at hand, learn it quickly and move on.

The items in this list in Proverbs 3 are great guardrails in our daily walk with Jesus. They will make sure that we do not wander off of this narrow path to the narrow gate. They will help us stay in that place of intimacy and growth with Jesus. However, these things are absolutely useless if our great pursuit is not growing in the love of the Lord. Like all lists there is a danger that we will seek our salvation in it instead of in Jesus Christ but understand that in this list you will find a great summary of the elements you are responsible for in your relationship with Jesus; love, trust, honour, giving, and submission.

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