December 14, 2012

Responding to God when responding to danger

The forests are filled with birds’ nests hidden among the leaves. When a storm starts or when night nears, each bird flies to their own nest, hiding there until danger, alarm or darkness passes. 

Today’s devotional likens the promises of God to nests that are hidden in the Bible like nests in the forest are hidden from danger. When a Christian is threatened or alarmed, we can hide in these promises until the storm has whirled past. The author says there are no castles in this world as impregnable as the promises of God. He uses this verse…

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

While I agree with the nest analogy, another idea comes to mind. The reason that I should live a pure and godly life is not to earn favor with God but because He has already unconditionally promised favor to me. That is, goodness of God leads me to repentance and change. Because of what He has done, I am able to fly to Him and to safety. This, and any other godly action on my part is initiated in response to what He has done.

I’m reading a couple of New Testament theology books in preparation to finish a Masters degree that I had to abandon years ago (taking care of my parents). These books are heavily loaded with theories past and present about the meaning of Scripture. Out of all of them, most are based on the idea that God gives rules and we are supposed to obey them. For those who don’t like that idea, the rules are bent, or the giving of them is twisted. 

This menagerie of beliefs and ideas could be confusing without knowing the simplicity of the gospel message. God loves us. We are sinners. He sent Christ to save us from our sin. Those who believe in Jesus are granted new life and changed hearts. Believers then can turn from sin to follow Him.

Anything else becomes a complicated system of what a person must do to please God. These confused theologians may have understood the first thing, that God loves us, but have not grasped the second; we are sinners. We cannot please God. There is nothing in us that merits anything from Him. Salvation is a gift given because of His mercy and grace, not because of anything we do. 

The best I can do toward holiness is respond to what God has done for me. In the first place, this meant receiving the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. When that happened, Jesus moved in to live in my heart. This was God’s doing. I am still amazed that He saved me.

Now am able to cooperate with Him in a lifelong cleansing process. This is about obedience, saying no to sin and yes to Him. It is about being in awe of God and letting that awe shape my life. Most of the time, my responses to Him are not passive. Sometimes I must put on spiritual armor and fight sin and evil with vigorous action. However, there are situations where all I can do is fly to Him and hide in Him like a bird to its nest, and stay there until all threats are past. 

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