GM: O for Grace to love Thee more. Part Two
The challenge for modern man, whose life expectancy is much greater than, in the days when war and pestilence routinely killed people in their thirties and forties, is that we are asking the wrong ( existential) question.
A situation compounded by our expectations, honed and shaped by life in a material world, where the good life is measured by, for example, whether you have the latest Samsung cell phone ( the Galaxy Xcover 3 Value Edition would do very nicely thank you) or if you are still bothering with the old iPhone.
And if that approach to life remained in the secular world, it would bad but not too much of a problem! But the challenge is that such a world view has invaded the Church of the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ. Have mercy!
So, the great staggering existential question which, not just Ezekiel, but the entire Bible, from Creation through the Fall, to Redemption and Judgement, poses, is lost on modern man: Can this sinner be made a saint?
For that’s not the focus of the so called ‘ prosperity gospel’, which is no gospel at all. A philosophy that encourages it’s adherents to pose another question. Can Jesus provide that job for me? Can Jesus save my marriage? Can Jesus reduce Crime and Violence in Jamaica? Will Jesus put a stop to Donald Trump? Will Jesus put a stop to President Obama’s ‘ liberal agenda’: read support for the Gay and Lesbian lifestyle? Was Jesus on the side of Andrew Holness’ new government why they defeated the PNP, even though PSM felt a ‘ touch ‘ from the Master.
Then the insidious philosophy gets more subtle? Is Jesus on the side of the Human Rights movement; for is it not the goal of the Gospel to protect the rights of the poor and marginalized viz, the sex worker, the homosexual and the transvestite. Is Jesus not on the side of the poor and oppressed in South America which is what the ‘ Liberation’ theologians claimed in the 1970’s?
Then I read this reflection from Oswald Chambers a couple nights ago, and received an even greater insight into the story of The Forgiven Woman about whom I was led to write early this week.
THE STAGGERING QUESTION
Son of man, can these bones live? Ezekiel 37:3
“Can that sinner be turned into a saint? Can a twisted life be made right? There is only one appropriate answer— “O Lord God, You know” (Ezekiel 37:3). Never forge ahead with your religious common sense and say, “Oh, yes, with just a little more Bible reading, devotional time, and prayer, I see how it can be done.”
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him. Do I really believe that God will do in me what I cannot do? The degree of hopelessness I have for others comes from never realizing that God has done anything for me. Is my own personal experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power and might that I can never have a sense of hopelessness for anyone else I see? Has any spiritual work been accomplished in me at all? The degree of panic activity in my life is equal to the degree of my lack of personal spiritual experience.
“Behold, O My people, I will open your graves…” (Ezekiel 37:12). When God wants to show you what human nature is like separated from Himself, He shows it to you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has ever given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He will only do this when His Spirit is at work in you), then you know that in reality there is no criminal half as bad as you yourself could be without His grace. My “grave” has been opened by God and “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). God’s Spirit continually reveals to His children what human nature is like apart from His grace.”
Comment: For it is this understand of who she was ‘ the sinful woman’, before a Holy God, that led her to ‘ wash Jesus’ feet with her tears ‘ .
And as I was reminded by a staff member yesterday at work, nobody but that lady knew what was in ‘her alabaster box’: a beautiful and haunting song by CeCe Winans.
Last night on my way home when news broke about the imminent death of one of my all time favourite sportsmen, Mohammed Ali, I wondered about his soul. In the same way we must wonder about and pray without ceasing for our own souls using the words of Ezekiel: Can these bones live? And the words of Oswald Chambers” can that sinner be turned into a saint” ?
For in the final analysis it is not the human rights of the sex worker, or the human rights of the GLBT community that matters, but whether or not ‘ can that sinner be turned into a saint ‘?
The same question ought to be the focus of our prayers for Parliamentarians whose behaviour is an affront to civilized life! For the Pastor or even the Bishop whose behaviour is causing great distress in the Church. For our athletes who ‘ let down the side’, whether by testing positive for enhancing drugs or by embarrassing comments on television. For the men who cause women to believe that ‘ all men are liars and cheaters’! For women whose foul language betray their calling to be the mothers of a nation! For school children whose behaviour trigger controversial descriptions and cause many teachers to leave the classroom prematurely. For gunmen whose behaviour has caused our precious nation to become almost a pariah in the eyes of the International Community!
For in the final analysis, these are the people for whom Jesus came, died a cruel death on a Cross and was Raised from the dead, so that all of us sinners, could become ‘ saints’.
This is then the only question that matters in life – despite the hype about cell phones and music and sports and growth in the economy. And tied up in her alabaster box, were all the sins of The Sinful Woman. So she poured them out on Jesus, and received healing, for her sins were many so she loved Him much.
I pray God that, especially we in the Church may recover our ‘ first love for Jesus ‘, pour out on Him what is in our alabaster box, and then invite others to do the same.
As, long after Prince has been forgotten and so too Mohammed Ali, the controversial 1.5, the excitement of the Olympics in Rio, and the anticipated good performance of the ReggaeBoyz in the CopaAmerica ( no, we are not involving West Indies Cricket as yet…far too early for that) the staggering existential question will apply, ” Can these bones live”.
Thank God for Jesus, everyone who believes in His Atonement for Sin on the Cross of Calvary, can enter into His New and unending life. And become Saints. Which is all that matters in life, and the focus of The Bible, from Genesis to Revelations