December 21, 2012

Creating ripples?

Our oldest son dropped by on his way home from a shift up north. We had a great visit. He told me that the people he works with do not know what to do with him because he says the truth, tells it like it is, and that makes some of them extremely uncomfortable. 

We also talked about the power of sinful motivations, how they can drive people into making illogical and even dangerous choices. This happens in his environment, but also all over the world. Those who are driven this way may have no idea of the trouble they cause for themselves and others. If they do, they rationalize or make excuses rather than being honest about their behavior. 

Not so with Johah. This man was told by God to go preach repentance to the people in Nineveh. In an attempt to escape the presence of the Lord (and His commands), Jonah took off in the other direction. He wound up in a ship that soon was direly threatened by a great storm. The sailors asked his identity and he told them he was a Hebrew who feared God, but he admitted that he was fleeing God’s presence.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:11–12)

Today’s devotional comment is short. It says, “Sin in the soul is like Jonah in the ship. It turns the smoothest water into a tempestuous sea.”

The effects of sin may begin as a ripple. Something as seemingly mild as gossip can even begin as, “Pray for so-and-so because she….” But in no time, the words about so-and-so’s problems become a tale told, a device used by the tellers to build themselves up by tearing down others. The ripple becomes a wave and in many cases even a tempestuous sea, all because of selfish motives.

Some suppose that God sits in heaven tossing out rules just because He can. However, He loves us and wants the best for us.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (Deuteronomy 10:12–13)

Part of that good that God wants is that His people live in harmony and peace. Paul wrote to Timothy,

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–4)

The first part gives reason for an attitude of prayerful concern for those with clout. We are to pray for them (not bellyache about them) that we can have that peaceful life we desire. These verses show that God’s reason for this command is that He wants that for us too!

The last phrase tells how. It is not by our own efforts or by what drives us. Sinful or seemingly good motifs will not produce that inner peace and a godly life. Instead, it is available with salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) 

To know Jesus is to have knowledge of the truth. It is the only way to stop the ripples caused by sin, ripples that turn into deadly tempests. Once we have that knowledge then we have the desire and the power to obey God.

I’m glad that our son is a person of truth. As he admits, he does not always hit it right, but he has discovered there is a peace from God that is beyond understanding. He also knows that telling the truth puts sinful motivations out in plain sight where they can be resisted and defeated. I suspect that his attitude is creating ripples of a different kind.

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