Friday, November 7, 2008

Do Not Run

In church last week we focused in on two verses - 1 John 3:1-2, where it says our true identity is hidden now and Matthew 5:3-4 where Jesus blesses those who are hurting now. Someday our true identity will be known. Then we will "shine like the sun" in the kingdom of our Father.

In this life, however, for now, we cry out for goodness and grace that seems far away, and, many times, we are hurt for doing what is right. Not only that, when we preach and hear rightly, we will feel like we are under attack.

In the scripture for this coming Sunday, we learn how meeting the Lord is often "darkness, not light." It is...
as if someone fled from a lion and was met by a bear.
And then, finally arriving at home...
went into the house, rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Amos 5:19
Let the Lion and Bear symbolize whatever it is we are afraid of outside of ourselves, and let the snake stand for our own sin - sin that is revealed by the Word of God. Or perhaps the Lion is the Lord who we run from at our own peril. Perhaps we should just let him come at us and do his worst.

When we come to church, God reveals the goodness that is hidden most of the time. He reveals it through his Word. But when that goodness is revealed, it shows us what we want to hide - our rebellion, our brokenness, our treason against God, our sin.

Sometimes we go to church and try to stay in hiding. Sometimes we put on a happy face. Sometimes we think by maintaining a tradition or by singing new songs, we are doing something good to impress others or to impress God himself. But if what happens there is a show, or if we hear or study God's Word and leave the same way we came in, God is not fooled.

The Lord says:
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen...

Instead, let justice roll down like waters,
and right-living like an ever-flowing stream.
The scriptures are filled with warnings about what will happen when we live hypocritically. In the Matthew 25:1-13 gospel for November 9, there is a story of ten bridesmaids. Half are sincerely ready to meet the groom. The others are pretending. When the groom comes -- when the Lord comes -- the truth will be known, much to the sorrow of pretending, hypocritical fools.

Like in many "parables" of Jesus, the story ends with a warning. The pretending bridesmaids come too late, asking to come in, but the groom says...
Truly I tell you, I do not know you.
Then the narrator returns saying...
Keep awake! For you know neither the day nor the hour!
"Keeping awake" here means "pay attention!" Don't just pretend. Let the Lord do his work, even if it hurts. As we read in Hosea 6:
Come, let us return to the Lord;
for it is he who has torn,
and he will heal us;
he has struck down,
and he will bind us up.

After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live with him.
There is no escape except through the cross. That's what Hosea points to in his prophecy. Jesus died for sinners, for hypocritical ones too. He laid in the grave for two, three days (depending on how you count them). The same promise is given to us.

So, how do we get ready? Don't run from the Lord. Allow Him to show you how bad you really are. (How bad I really am.) No matter how long you may have lived pretending to be good, as long as you have life, it's not too late.

Come and be broken this Sunday, so you can be healed--and saved. And bring someone else too.

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