May 14, 2007

Never Forsaken

In a ministry at Grace Community Church we were taught to present the gospel clearly, making sure to include the results. The emphasis was on “this is what will happen if Jesus Christ comes into your life.”

The folks at Grace did this partly because too many gospel presentations resulted in an “easy believism” wherein people were told to “walk the aisle, pray the prayer, and you’re in.” Then, when reality happened, these people didn’t understand what was happening, and in many cases left the church. Their faith was based on a God who would make their lives easy.

Besides telling inquirers about real life as a Christian, we also told them they would have a changed attitude toward sin. They could expect a desire to leave it behind, but this would be a challenge as their old nature would fight to keep on living as usual.

No one told me about that either. I wanted the grace and comfort of God, but didn’t realize how seriously God takes this business of saving me from sin, and how necessary it is to cooperate. Those were hard lessons.

This morning, I’m reminded of my struggles to leave sin behind me. In Exodus 12, the people of Israel, who were in bondage as slaves in Egypt, offer a picture of human bondage to sin. Their struggle depicts the world’s pull on Christian, and sin’s ability to possess us and tell us what to do. For them, and in a series of miraculous events, God came to their rescue. He showed their taskmaster, the Egyptian pharaoh, that he had to release these people from their bondage.

The battle was intense, but God’s final blow brought him and the rest of Egypt to the ground. God sent the angel of death to take the firstborn of every living creature. Their was only one way to escape. God told His people to kill a lamb without blemish, take some of the blood and put it on the top and sides of the doors to their homes, and then entirely consume the lamb so that nothing remained by morning. When the death angel saw the blood, he would pass over that home and spare the firstborn inside.

That lamb was the Passover lamb of the old covenant. It’s blood saved them from death. Jesus is the Passover Lamb of the new covenant. His blood delivers those who believe in Him from sin and spares them from eternal death. Eternal death is separation from God forever, and the result of rejecting Him and hanging on to sin.

God gave instruction to the people of the Exodus that speaks to people who believe in Christ. He told them, “And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.”

With those words, He is saying, “Get ready to leave” and those ancient people did just that. They packed up in haste and left. They were allowed to take their flocks and herds, and even told to ask the Egyptians for “articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing . . . thus they plundered the Egyptians” but they got out of that place.

They left behind their old life, a life of slavery and bondage and hard labor that produced for them only sweat and tears, nothing for themselves that lasted. Before they actually left, they prepared to leave, knowing they would not take any of it with them. Later, some complained that they missed the food, almost as if they forgot the bondage, but no one wanted to be a slave to that life again.

The worst of “easy believism” is that most of those who go for it never really leave their old life. No one tells them they have to, and when they find out that this is part of what it means to be a Christian, that old life, like the food of Egypt, calls them back.

I’m so glad that I don’t miss any of it, but that is the difference new life makes. As we learned at Grace church, being a child of God means being put into another place, another way of life, a freedom from slavery that is so unlike what life used to be like.

Sure, I do have to battle my former thoughts and actions, but at Grace we also told people that a genuine taste of “milk and honey” in the new land, and even the “manna” of their wanderings to get there, would be part of God’s way to urge them forward. If they were willing to pack up and leave, He would never leave or forsake them.

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