Monday, July 14, 2014

To Save a Life

The phrase is everywhere. When someone pulls another person from a car wreck just in time, we say that their life was saved. Some people say that they were saved by the influence of something or someone that caused them to change their lifestyle or perspective. There is even a popular song entitled “To Save a Life”. 

If we stop to look at the phrase carefully, though, we see that it’s misleading. It is impossible for any person to save a life. There are instances in which a person is spared from a form of suffering. Death can be delayed. But as for life itself, no person has the power to prevent its ending altogether.

As depressing as the inevitability of death is, it only illuminates the precious gift Christ gives. 

Christ alone defeats death. His saving work is not as simple or temporary as that of a doctor or a mentor or a so-called hero. When Christ saves us, it is forever!

This is the reason for our hope. How can we not praise Him and rejoice in gratitude?

Jesus destroys death for us. Then, He gives us new life. Eternal life. As if that isn’t enough to astound us, He saves us from more than death -it is eternal punishment that we are spared from. 

Everything that we deserve because of the condition of our sinful hearts is not only forgiven and wiped away, but replaced by this new life in Christ. Romans 6:23 phrases it this way: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

All of this –free. Absolutely, 100% free to us as receivers. He paid the price for us. To rescue and redeem that which we considered ours but that He also freely gave –life itself. From the beginning He has known and formed each of us, His breath is the only thing that gives life. Our God is the creator of life –and He’s the one who saves our lives, making us new for eternity.

We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about life. At funerals, in hospitals, when tragedies occur, we mourn that life is short and fleeting. As we celebrate achievements and reminisce about how they could never have been, had someone not “_________”, we rejoice that lives can change and improve.

At the same time, we spend plenty of time thinking and talking about death. In many of the same places, we look at death as if it really is inevitable. We act like that's okay and talk about finding meaning in it anyway. 

Isn't that crazy? We obsess over people "saving lives" -yet we rarely get to the fact of the matter: our bodies will die, each and every one, no matter what we do. It's nice to have more time on earth, sure, but that's all we get. Except that salvation is possible. Eternity is at hand if only we will accept His free gift of new, everlasting life. 

We rejoice more over the delaying of death than over repentance leading to salvation. When the opportunity arises to speak about life or about death, we must be clear about the options we have. And we can start by re-tuning our phrases for accuracy. 

How can a life be saved? By Christ alone. 

How amazing that our Lord is who He is, can do what He did, and does what He does! 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Such Stubborn Hearts!

We have such stubborn hearts! I was so reminded of this when reading Jeremiah 40-44.

Here's the setting:

God's people have been captured and taken to Babylon. It's been long coming. The Lord is using Babylon as a weapon to punish His people for their wickedness.

The Lord's prophet Jeremiah is left behind, along with a remnant to tend the land. This remnant of God's people are being governed by Gedaliah, one of their own, appointed by the Babylonians. Another guy decided to seize control, turmoil ensued. Both Gedaliah and the usurper are killed in the process. Johanan is now the ruler, and he wants to save the people.

Recognizing (finally!) that God is who He says He is and that Jeremiah is in line with the Lord, Johanan and the people ask Jeremiah to pray for them. They want him to ask God if they should flee the land in fear of Babylon or stay where the Babylonians left them and trust him. The people say -yes, they say- that regardless of the Lord's response, they will obey Him. His might has been displayed, they know it's useless to disobey Him.

So, God replies after ten days through Jeremiah. He wants them to stay in the promised land where they were left. God promises to deliver and protect His remnant.

What do they do?

The same people who just said they'd obey God regardless of His response (and His response was in their favor!) flee. They flee because they are afraid of Babylon. Moreso, they flee because they decide that Jeremiah is trying to trick them.

This is how stubborn our hearts are! We witness the Lord's work, we go to God and surrender, we vow to obey Him and perhaps we mean it. But as He responds we don't trust His Word. We twist it, defiling it with worldly assumptions, and we still do things our own way.

If you keep reading, or read any of Scripture leading up to these passages, you'll find more of the same. God works on behalf of His people, they recognize Him and proclaim their allegiance. Then, their stubborn hearts follow temptations, trust in deception, and fear immediate threats rather than the promises of the Lord.

And this isn't just the story of the Israelites. This is each of us.

How often do we go to God with a question and get impatient when He doesn't give an immediate answer?

How often to do we doubt His responses, choosing to fear the potential of evil deceit than to trust those who seek Him will not be left wanting?

How often do we surrender to Him and then go our own way anyway, with some excuse or another?

Our hearts are so stubborn! And God knows that.

Scripture tells us that the Lord's target is our heart. He knows it to be our personhood and the center of all of our operations because He made it (Proverbs 4:23). When the Spirit transforms us, in starts in our hearts (Ezekiel 36:26). It is on our hearts, not on tablets of stone, that the Spirit writes the truth (2 Corinthians 3:3).

David knew a lot about the heart and how stubborn it can be. His prayer can be our prayer, because Lord knows we need to surrender first and foremost to Him that which all this stubbornness originates in.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." -Psalm 51:10