June 2, 2013

God has a hitching post…

When training horses, I soon discovered that if my horse did something I didn’t
want, like pulling back when I tied her to a post, and was successful at breaking the rope, she never forgot that one success. But if she did something I did want, she never remembered that one success and I had to keep repeating the lesson.
I had the same experience with my dogs. Now I sadly realize I’m not much different under the training of the Lord from those animals …

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11–14)

By the grace of God, I am a Christian. For just over forty years, He has been training me to turn from ungodliness and sinful desires so I might be self-controlled and live a noble and holy life as I wait for Jesus to return. I know that Jesus Christ died to redeem me from sin and make my life pure and a blessing to Him. I know that I belong to Him and ought to be eager to obey Him, but like that horse, the wrong way of doing things is far quicker to pop up as an automatic response than even remembering the right way to do things. I am a tough and stubborn student.

Paul believed in a great redemption. He says, “Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness (wickedness).” Redemption is a wonderful word that means sinners are ransomed, purchased from slavery to sin and set free to serve God. This came at an immeasurable price. Jesus was obedient, suffered and died that I might be released from bondage. In love, He freely gave Himself for us. I loved my horse, but I would not do that for her.

The marvel of the gospel is that redeeming sacrifice of God the Son. Without His death and resurrection, there would be no stopping sin. It would rule my life just as it rules the world of those who reject God’s offer, reject God’s Son, and even mock God as well. Without redemption, the self-effort of those who desire to be “good” people might last a little while, but eventually sin and selfishness take over and we act like animals.

Paul’s words about God’s appearing were not a private vision. He declared the grace of God to everyone whose eyes and heart are open to see and embrace it, adding up to millions of people. In fact, the Lord Jesus Christ manifests the grace of God more gloriously than has been done by creation or providence. Because He lived, died and rose again, He clearly revealed the love and mercy of God, giving us a vision of the Father character and of His gracious heart.

My horse didn’t understand why I did the things I did to train her, just as I often do not understand why God deals with me the way He does, but I do know that when He teaches me, even with repeated lessons, He displays amazing love and patience. He persists because He cares. He knows that I am stubborn and forgetful too, yet He wants the very best for me. He proved that in sending Jesus to redeem me, but He also proves it by keeping me tied up close to Him.

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